College grads tackle job hunt with an array of weapons

New Hampshire college students are graduating this year with a new degree of preparedness – in networking – just in time to face a hostile job market.

In fact, with an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent in April, college graduates have not entered such an unfavorable job market since the recession of the early 1990s. (In that recession, the jobless rate peaked at 7.7 percent in the summer of 1991.)

Fortunately, the job-search landscape has changed a great deal since 1991, and college graduates are entering the workforce with a repertoire of networking tools at their fingertips. Career centers at the University of New Hampshire and Dartmouth College, for instance, have trained their graduates in the art of the job search – or, more specifically, the importance of networking to find a job.

To begin with, a host of popular networking tools have only become available within the last decade. Internet databases such as, created in 1999, and craigslist, launched in 1995, have become go-to resources for job-seekers, and professional directories such as LinkedIn, founded in 2002, now provide powerful networking and job search capabilities for employees and employers alike. Social networking tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, both created within the last five years, have also turned into hot spots for recruiters and job-seekers.

So with easy accessibility to more job opportunities than ever, have college graduates managed to connect with more job offers this summer, despite the economic downturn?

According to Monica Wilson, associate director of Dartmouth’s Undergraduate Career Services, about the same number of students reported having job offers as compared to last year. But Wilson called those students the “crème de la crème” at the institution.

“The top-tier students, the ones with the highest GPAs, always find jobs,” Wilson said, adding that other students are still struggling with the difficult job market.

In response to this challenge, the college launched a “Senior Job Jam” meant to assist Dartmouth seniors with job leads. The Job Jam involved a major networking effort in itself, reaching out to over 30,000 contacts, which included “alumni, parents, friends, employers who have hired at Dartmouth in the past, or supporters of any kind.”

This process involved sending e-mails, enlisting “Green Corps” student volunteers to make phone calls to alumni, posting Web page announcements and tapping alumni club events.

‘Elevator pitch’

Similar attention was given to seniors at the University of New Hampshire, already actively pursuing advice from their Advising and Career Center.

“Our numbers of students attending our job fairs more than doubled,” said Nancy Hoff, associate director of UNH’s Advising and Career Center. “And students reached during presentations to classes and student groups was the highest ever — four staff members presented to over 150 groups this year.”

According to Hoff, job fair attendance reached 1,000 students in the fall and 1,300 in the spring this academic year.

The economic situation prompted the career center to get an early start on sending out job-search advice to students.

“We coached them all year on how to tackle their job searches,” Hoff said. “We advocated a multi-pronged job search strategy, which included participating in on-campus interviews, attending our job fairs, utilizing job search Web sites and networking.”

The career center saw high demand for services and drop-in appointments all year.

Both Wilson and Hoff emphasized networking as the key to a successful job search.

“Networking remains the number one way for college graduates to find jobs,” said Hoff, who encouraged students to develop a list of contacts including, but not limited to, “family, friends, sorority/fraternity contacts, professors, internship colleagues [and] supervisors.”

At UNH, the center offers such resources as an Alumni Career Mentor Network, Pathways Networking program and Diversity Network Program and works with students to develop an “elevator pitch” so that the student can effectively sell themselves to the networking contacts.

Likewise, Wilson urged students to begin networking early in their college careers. Wilson said, “Dartmouth has an extremely strong and supportive alumni network so we encourage students to tap in to it — not just to find leads on jobs, but to learn more about different careers, to job-shadow.”