How college kids can get a job


The Curse of the Class of 2009, the Wall St. Journal headline screamed last month. Grim job outlook for new college grads, the Minnesota Public Radio News story echoed.

“If I were a college graduate right now, it’d be enough to make me hide under the covers for the rest of my life, ” Lindsey Pollak, a career columnist, told Kerri Miller on MPR’s Midmorning this morning.

Got it. It’s bad. But grads are getting jobs. We know that because many of them called in today.

Here are the tips we learned today:

Pay your dues

“You have to realize the path you thought you would take isn’t the path you can. We’re going back to the olden days when you have to pay your dues and some kids don’t want to hear that,” Pollack said.

Consider unpaid internships or waiting tables, said Steven Rothberg, the president and founder of, based in Edina. “My parents did that, I don’t see why this year’s graduating class should feel they shouldn’t have to do that,” he said.

Nick, a recent college graduate, is one of the few who got a job. He called into the show to say he had an unpaid internship program with GE and was told all he had to do was work hard and he’d have a job. He’s got a job.

Network with alumni

Caller Steve said he’d hand out business cards to everyone, including friends and other people he’d meet. He starts a job on Wall Street next week. “I had a list of 25 alumni and every month I’d make sure I’d go through the list and drop each a note.”

“It’s about taking the people you know and the people they know and talking to them about your career prospects. If you tap into the network of people who know you… that works,” Pollack said.

“Networking isn’t about asking people what they can do for you,” Rothberg said, “it’s what you can do for them.” He said an accounting major, for example, may tell a friend in business, “I see you have a stack of bills to get out, what do you think about me coming in and helping you do it for free?”

An engineering student said his “network dried up with hiring freezes.” Rothberg said he’s networking incorrectly.

Use your summer jobs to get experience in your field

A business owner said most of the resumes he gets have summer jobs listed that have nothing to do with what career they want to pursue. “They’re working as roofers because it pays more,” he said.

“Talk to professors who may know of businesses who may need some help through the summer,” Pollack said. “And just getting a sense of how a professional office works gives you a leg up.”

A caller who graduated from law school, disputed that. She worked at Menard’s for eight years. “If you can last at a job for eight years, you can do anything,” she said.

Don’t assume nobody’s hiring. Take advantage of the college’s career services

A St. Cloud State College career services pro said surveys sent out to area businesses

showed that while there are companies who don’t plan to hire until fall, several have indicated they’ve got jobs to fill.

Rothberg said students aren’t taking enough initiative to work with their college career services department. “You have to act like an adult,” he said.

“Students drop a resume off at a career fair and they’re shocked they didn’t get a job,” said Pollack. “The days of mailing in a resume and expecting to get a job are so over.”

Rothberg said he’s not much of a fan of college job fairs. He said many companies send “introverts” to them who don’t like shaking hands and meeting people.

Be memorable in interviews

“You can look great on paper and have all the experience in the world,” one young caller, Duncan, said. “But personality and humor is important in an interview, too.”

“Actors are good because they prepare and practice and a lot of students walk in and just wing it,” Pollack said. “It’s important not to just say ‘I’m great, I have a great personality or I have experience,’ you have to explain why you’re the best person for the job.”

“Role play,” said Rothberg. “Get your college roommate to pretend he/she’s the hiring manager and practice. Get prepared for the stupid questions.”

Remain optimistic

Find job-search support groups and don’t let yourself get isolated. “You cannot put your eggs in one basket. A lot of students get all worked up about one or two job possibilities and sit by the phone. You’ve got to cast a wider net,” Pollack said.

Go work with kids or volunteer at a hospital. It’ll make you feel better about yourself.

It’s great to hear success stories. If you’ve got some tips, add them below.

(Photo: Getty Images)