Dr. Phil Gardner of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute recently visited campus and I hosted him during four days of meetings with students, faculty, alumni, staff, and career service professionals from the Seattle area. Dr. Gardner is the national expert on the job market for college graduates, and while it’s hard to summarize everything he said, there are a few key points I’d like to pass along to Puget Sound students:

• If you’re waiting for the recession to pass and for the job market to get back to “normal,” that’s not going to happen. We’re forging new territory: employers are recruiting in new ways, entry-level jobs require more advanced skills, technology will play an increasing role in the workplace… And liberal arts graduates are well positioned to succeed because of the skills they develop as part of their education.

• Small to medium-sized employers (fewer than 250 employees) will be the employers most likely to hire.

• The majority of positions will not be advertised in traditional ways like online job boards. Networking will be absolutely imperative.

• Entry-level positions require new and more advanced skills that involve analytical thinking, working in teams, developing creative solutions, leveraging technology, and leadership (among others). Check out this list of competencies employers seek in college grads from Michigan State University (where Dr. Gardner works).

• Work to build experiences outside of the classroom; it will be essential for success. Develop the skills and competencies employers seek through career-related experiences such as internships, part-time jobs, volunteer opportunities, entrepreneurial ventures, and others.

• Thinking about riding out the recession by going to graduate school? You might want to think again unless it was already in your career plans or a graduate degree is required for entry-level work in your field of interest. Career expert Alexandra Levit agrees.

• Be resilient! Engage in optimistic realism. The reality is, this is a tough time to be searching for a job. But, as a liberal arts graduate, you have built a strong foundation that will help you succeed. Learn to tell your story, develop and maintain your networks, and be an active job seeker. Take responsibility for your job or internship search and use the resources available to you (CES – hint, hint) to map out a plan. It’s up to you.

© 2009 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound