Job market for grads making a stunning comback

Tim Post has written about the improvement in the job market for new grads, and this Bloomberg story today makes it sound even more promising:

“It’s quite a stunning comeback,” said Lance Choy, director of the career development center at Stanford University near Palo Alto, California. “Over the past couple of years there’s been a lot of anxiety. It’s been a bleak time for students. We’ve come back from quite a dip.”

Here’s the full article:

Best Job Market for U.S. Grads Since 2008 Bears Multiple Offers

By Oliver Staley, Douglas MacMillan and Cecile Vannucci

Hamza Afzal had such a hard time finding an electrical-engineering internship in the recession that he delayed his graduation, took pre-med classes and applied to law school. This year, he got two job offers in his field.

“I definitely saw a shift in the job market,” said Afzal, a 24-year-old senior at San Jose State University, who will start May 30 at chipmaker Linear Technology Corp. in nearby Milpitas, California. “There was a lot of pressure off my shoulders.”

The class of 2011 is enjoying the best job market for new graduates since the 2008 financial crisis, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The turnaround is being driven by gains in finance, energy and technology, said Edwin Koc, who heads research at the association.

Companies are filling a backlog of jobs after two years of stagnant hiring and looking to younger workers to fill vacancies, he said. This year, 1.61 million students are expected to graduate, he said.

Job creation is booming in Silicon Valley, where postings have doubled from two years ago at technology career website Dice Holdings Inc.

“It’s quite a stunning comeback,” said Lance Choy, director of the career development center at Stanford University near Palo Alto, California. “Over the past couple of years there’s been a lot of anxiety. It’s been a bleak time for students. We’ve come back from quite a dip.”

‘Recruit Once, Hire Twice’

Postings at Stanford’s online job board for full-time positions surged 36 percent to 1,900 in the fourth quarter of last year compared with a year earlier, Choy said. Internship postings climbed 31 percent.

Emerging areas of technology like social media, mobile applications and e-commerce are fueling rapid hiring at large companies like Google Inc. and Apple Inc. as well as at hundreds of venture capital-backed startups.

At San Jose State, job postings increased by 59 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to Cheryl Allmen-Vinnedge, director of the school’s career center. A job fair at the university on April 12 drew more employers than the school had room for, she said.

Increasingly, students are finding that internships can lead to full-time jobs as companies use them to audition potential employees, Allmen-Vinnedge said.

“Employers want to recruit once and hire twice,” she said.

Internship Fever

Robert Fischer, 22, a San Jose State senior from Los Altos, California, spent three years interning at Google and will start a full-time position after graduating in May.

“I look at an internship as sort of an extended interview,” said Fischer, who became fascinated with engineers at Mountain View, California-based Google while in high school. “I showed them how hard I was willing to work and the things I could do. I think that helped.”

Zynga Inc., the biggest maker of online games on Facebook Inc., is hiring about 130 college graduates this year, 35 percent more than last year, said Dani Dudeck, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco-based company.

Facebook is “aggressively hiring the best talent we can in the quickest manner possible,” said Adam Ward, a recruiting manager at the Palo Alto company, who didn’t disclose how many positions are being added.

That kind of hiring is a switch from the past few years, when the recession crimped hiring of new graduates by the biggest consulting firms and investment banks. Students were forced to work harder at networking and contacting alumni, said Stanford’s Choy.

“There’s a lot of frustration,” he said. “They wondered, ‘Gee, all this education, what is it worth?’”

Early Offers

In 2009, the University of California, Berkeley, halved its job fair from two days to one because of a dearth of interested employers. This year, the April event returned to two days and drew 160 companies, up from 95 last year.

The hiring climate is also improving outside Silicon Valley. Schools from New York University to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, say opportunities this year for graduating students have increased, and that the recruiting process began earlier than in past years.

Employer attendance at Northwestern’s fall job fair grew 42 percent, according to Lonnie Dunlap, executive director of the school’s career services. Job postings have climbed 48 percent.

Danielle Even, 22, an NYU senior with a double major in finance and economics, accepted a job offer last August. The Brooklyn native interned during the summer at Evercore Partners Inc. and was offered a full-time position at the investment bank that starts in June.

“I was able to sign and really not have to worry about searching for a job throughout my whole senior year,” Even said in a phone interview.

Tough for Some

The path to the workforce isn’t smooth for all students.

Alice Boudes, 21, a Boston University senior majoring in communications, has been searching for a job without a specific occupation in mind.

“It’s super competitive,” the French-born student said. “Especially for communications, jobs don’t really open up until later in the year. It’s tough. I’m a part-time student this semester, and I did that on purpose so that I could have more time to try to find a job.”

Graduate students may be the biggest winners of the hiring boom, especially those with degrees in business, engineering or computer science.

Madhavi Sewak, 22, a computer science master’s candidate at Stanford from New Delhi, received three job offers and will start at Google when she graduates. Fellow Stanford student Adithya Rao, 30, from Bangalore, India, had five offers.

Less Risky Path?

The frenzy to hire business and engineering students makes it a great opportunity for job seekers, who can gain valuable experience being part of a startup, said Baba Shiv, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business who studies human behavior.

“For students, it’s the perfect time to take chances,” he said. “Do it now. In five years, it will be over.”

That’s the route Hamid Schricker, 30, is taking. A student at the Haas School of Business at Berkeley, Schricker took a leave of absence in December to work at Fwix, a San Francisco startup that offers an online news service for local communities, after an internship there.

“There was less risk to join the company than to stay in school,” said Schricker, who is from San Francisco. “I can always go back to business school and complete my degree.”