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Finding Work: College Grads Told Experience Critical

May 6, 2013

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Even with the jobs outlook slightly improving, graduating
college students can still find themselves in a catch-22: getting your first job
can be difficult, because employers tend to favor experience.

Students graduating with science, technology, and health care degrees will
likely find that unemployment rates in their industries are lower than the
state's average, but employers are still giving preference to experience, said
Annette Nielsen, economist at the N.H. Department of Employment Security.

She said that taking internships, and gaining any other experience while in
college, can help a student be more marketable.

When it comes to the job outlook for graduating college students, Nielsen said,
"I'm optimistic, but it really depends on what degree you have."

She said that the health care field -- which includes positions like doctors,
nurses, pharmacists, dentists, and physical therapists -- is seeing more jobs
available, and less competition, when compared to other industries.

Compared to the overall 5.6 percent unemployment rate in New Hampshire, there is
a 1.4 percent unemployment rate in health care, said Nielsen.

"STEM" degrees -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- are still
likely to land a graduating student a job, said Nielsen.

Occupations in architecture, engineering, as well as computer and mathematical
fields, are seeing a 3.8-percent unemployment rate.

No matter what degree, the biggest issue for graduates remains the employers'
preference to hire experienced workers, who are ready to get to work with
minimal on-the-job training. Nielsen described the "conundrum" -- employers
prefer experience, but it's difficult for graduates to get the experience
without getting hired first.

"That's always been an issue, how do you get your first job?" said Nielsen.

Nielsen strongly recommends that students complete internships during college,
or shortly after graduation. It's also useful to mention any projects done
through college coursework, to demonstrate any sort of experience that graduates
may have.

At the University of New Hampshire, students are increasingly encouraged to
complete an internship sometime before graduation, no matter what degree the
student is working on.

"We are constantly pushing them to do internships, and many of those are paid,"
said Krystal Hicks, associate director of career support and employer outreach
at UNH. "So much of the success in the job hunt has to do with the preparation
that the student is doing."

She said internships can also be a way for students to find out what they are
interested in, and whether a particular job is a good fit.

"Figuring out what you don't want to do is half the battle," said Hicks.

Hicks said she began working in employment and staffing in 2008, "when things
really fell apart" for job seekers. Since then, there has been a slow uptick in
the number of employers looking to hire, she said.

"This last year has really been phenomenal," said Hicks.

In March, UNH held one of its largest job fairs on campus, with about 140
employers and about 1,000 students in attendance.

"These employers are paying to come to this fair, so it's just showing the heavy
recruiting efforts that are happening," said Hicks.

She said that more recently she has seen more employers willing to hire interns,
many of whom have a chance to keep working for that company on a regular basis.

In addition to internships, UNH students can also participate in UNH Pathways, a
mentoring program that links up undergraduate students with alumni who provide
insight into professional growth and the post-college world.

Hicks said that 70 student-mentor matches have already been set up for next year
for the UNH Pathways program.

Source: (c)2013 the Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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