It goes without saying that the current U.S. job market remains challenging for college graduates. The tepid, uneven U.S. economic recovery has produced only 43,000 jobs in the past two months, and only about 750,000 for all of 2011 -- far below what's need to lower the nation's high, 9.2% unemployment rate.
With the aforementioned in mind, what can recent college graduates -- those young and young at heart -- do to adjust to the brave new world of employment?
-Accept a job offer you typically would not. In the current job market, scarcity is a reality. Even strong Yale and Harvard grads are accepting lesser-attractive positions that they would typically ignore in a stronger economy.
And that kick-down has affected the job market 'food chain,' if you will, which mean graduates from less-elite universities and colleges will have to do the same. (Unless you're related to Mike Bloomberg, of course.) Hence, consider a position you typically wouldn't, just to hone some skills and remain connected to the work force.
-Go lateral, go wide. With so few jobs available, you have to expand your potential opportunities by increasing the number of fields you'll consider. Example: If you're a public relations / communications major who wants to work for a p.r. firm, but could not secure a post at one, consider all lateral positions. Try to apply your skills in health care communications -- health care is one U.S. sector that's adding jobs and will continue to do so. Also: consider communications post in non-profit organizations -- they don't pay as much or hae all the glitz of for-profit corporations, but you'll still gain valuable p.r. experience.
-Be tactfully bold. Within reason, try to impress a potential employer, without letting the company exploit you. Tell a few hiring officials -- try to speak with a department manager -- that you're willing to work the first two weeks for free to let the organization evaluate you thoroughly and enable you to demonstrate your worth. More than one employer, after seeing a college grad perform well for free has concluded 'Hey, this man or woman is talented and ambitious. What are we waiting for? Let's hire him/her.'
-There is always graduate school. Finally, if the job market looks ridiculously tight in your city/region, keep in mind you can always return to graduate school. Ignore what you hear about the cost of advanced training: it is high, but it always was high, and the knowledge, skills, and experiences you gain will increase your market value. And here's the bonus: the opportunity cost for returning to graduate school is low -- only a low percentage of recent college grads will land their 'dream job' in this economy. Hence, now is a good time to learn those new skills.
In sum, stay flexible, stay positive, and keep graduate school in mind, and you'll be on your way to that job you deserve and will attain, strong U.S. economy or not-so-strong.