College grads discuss edge to finding work

Recent SMU alumnus Daniel Howard shares the secret to his success (three employment offers before graduation), and Kim Austin and Mike Davis of the Cox School of Business provide job-search expertise.

By Mia Castillo

Recent grads anxious about their job prospects in a still-recovering economy should take heart: There are plenty of success stories.

College graduates still stand a far better chance than fellow job seekers without a degree. In April, the unemployment rate for degree holders stood at 3.9 percent, compared with 7.4 percent for those with only a high school diploma and 11.6 percent for those without, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What’s more, the professional and business services sector has added nearly 600,000 jobs in the past year.

Even so, many skilled graduates who have found work remain underemployed, working jobs that don’t require a degree in order to pay their bills. But some local students have beaten the odds, and there are some common secrets to their success.

Daniel Howard landed three job offers during his senior year at Southern Methodist University, ultimately accepting a position with Citigroup in Irving, the third-largest bank holding company in the U.S. He credits the internships on his résumé and believes a student with experience will beat out a competitor with a higher grade-point average any day.

“Just because you have a 4.0 GPA doesn’t mean you will land a job,” Howard said. “Internship experience teaches you so much about the corporate office, culture and environment of a company that you cannot find anywhere else. I would not have landed my job without the experience from my internships.”

Kim Austin, who directs the career center at SMU’s Cox School of Business, agreed that internships are instrumental for any job seeker.

“Many organizations source their new college hires directly from their internship program and make full-time offers at the conclusion of the internship,” she said.

Remaining flexible is also crucial for grads, said Mike Davis, an economist and senior lecturer at the Cox school. Although they may not get the job they envisioned, he said, that’s not a bad thing.

“Often young people graduate with degrees that are not specific to specific jobs,” Davis said. “It is very likely that those people are going to have to find their own way in the world and will end up doing a job that surprises them, but that they are good at.”

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