Job advice for new grads, entry-level professionals

With graduation season upon us, members of the Class of 2017 are planning their entry into the workplace. Along with the end of the school year, new grads can look forward to more good news — a new survey from CareerBuilder reveals 74 percent of employers plan to hire recent college graduates this year, the highest outlook since 2007.

While many resources are available to help new grads prepare for their first career search, some concerns remain common amongst those who are just starting out. Here are answers to the top six questions facing entry-level professionals:

I don’t meet all of the requirements listed — should I apply anyway?

If a job seeker meets three-quarters of the requirements, they should apply for the job. Some companies write job descriptions for a “perfect” candidate, one who may not even exist. Candidates who show solid skills and are eager to learn may land an interview.

I have a great internship. How can I approach the firm about parlaying this into a full-time role?

There’s good news for interns looking to get hired in 2017 — employers are projecting to hire 3.4 percent more interns in 2017 than they did in 2016, marking the first year since 2013 that employers have reported positive hiring projections for interns, according to NACE’s 2017 Internship & Co-op Survey.

Interns will benefit from speaking with managers sooner rather than later. During that conversation, interns can express their interest in permanent employment and can highlight how they will contribute to the business moving forward. The entry-level position may look different than they expected and flexibility is crucial.

The career I’m interested in has nothing to do with my major. How do I start my search?

Networking for new grads is key to building their careers. They can tap professors for ideas and use resources at their school’s career center. Recently graduated alumni may also be great resources for input and referrals. Finally, a robust LinkedIn profile can’t be understated — new grads are encouraged to join professional groups in their fields of interest. Other professionals are often happy to correspond with newcomers, offering tips and leads.

I can’t get a job without experience, yet I can’t get experience without a job. What should I do?

New grads with a limited job history can highlight the experience they do have on their resumes and on LinkedIn, especially roles exhibiting soft skills and customer service abilities, as employers place a high value on them. Restaurant and retail jobs, volunteer work, internships and student activities provide great experience, and show candidates were able to balance schoolwork with other priorities. For new grads, temporary roles or post-grad internships are a great way to build experience — and the potential to land a full-time gig.

The well-known firm I want to work for just turned me down. Should I keep trying?

One of the hardest parts of being a professional recruiter is letting candidates know that they didn’t get the job, but it’s something that happens to everyone. If a candidate is rejected, it’s important to take time and thank the hiring manager for their consideration. Express an interest in future opportunities at the company and ask the hiring manager keep the door open. However, rather than limiting themselves to a few big name companies, new grads are encouraged to expand their horizons.

The salary for my first job offer seems low. Do I have any leverage to negotiate?

Absolutely, but use industry research and emphasize your request based on hard data. The 2017 Robert Half Salary Guides are a great resource for this. Hiring managers may not be flexible on pay, so consider what else is negotiable, like schedule flexibility, more vacation or training. Fear of missing out — on a great job, high salary or cool perk — is very real as new grads transition from being part of the same college group into diverse career paths.

If a candidate receives a low offer from a potential employer, negotiation is appropriate. New grads should resist the urge to compare their job search with others or wonder “what if?” That high salary a classmate got could require working 80-hour weeks for a difficult boss. In our Generation Z study, growth opportunities outranked pay on the list of top job search priorities.

Nancy Andersen is the division director for Robert Half Management Resources, a staffing firm in Jacksonville. For more information, visit www.RobertHalf.com.

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