Employers are looking for college talent earlier than ever.
Each year Dr. Phil Gardner at Michigan State University Collegiate Employment Research Institute surveys thousands of companies to scope the employment landscape for college grads.
In this year's results, it's a mixed bag, but mostly favorable: college hiring is up overall by 4%.
The interesting thing that jumped out at me about this year's report, is the need for college students to begin their career prep experience from the first day on campus.
Here's what the survey said, and what you can do to get ready from your first days on campus.
1. Survey said: Many schools have "partner companies" who recruit for talent from the school.
What you need to do: Identify your school's employer partnerships, and who's at the table when they talk.
The primary reasons for these partnerships are to:
- get access to talent early in a student's career
- create visibility for their brand
- gain access to diverse talent
Hmmm, gain access to talent early in a student's career? That means the timeline is moving up. Companies may be looking for specific skill sets, academic attributes or areas of expertise earlier in the academic cycle. They may talk to your professors, deans, or career center to scout future top talent.
- 60% of these relationships involve career centers so ensure the career center is part of your strategy.
- Nearly 40% of companies want to see faculty or college deans involved in the relationships. That means your faculty team can be a critical component of your career search process.
Watch this news video for a textbook example of how TechSmith is leveraging their partnership - and hiring grads - at Michigan State.
2. Survey said: Campus oriented internships and career fairs are the top two recruiting strategies for companies.
What you need to do: Plug in to the career services your school offers.
Know what's available to you in terms of resources, education, internship opportunities. Get to know the staff, attend events. Be proactive to let them know who you are, what you offer, and what you are interested in.
One student told me, "The career center is a great resource, but only if you go to them. They won't come looking for you!"
3. Survey said: Faculty and alumni referrals are two other top recruiting strategies.
What you need to do: Build your network: on campus and off.
Build relationships with your college faculty, other students, other students' parents. Alumni groups, fraternity/sorority organizations, college clubs, college business partners, and your internship or work connections also count in your relationship map.
Create and nurture your online presence. I'm always surprised when I meet college students without a LinkedIn profile. Make this a priority immediately, and build on it throughout your academic career. (And yes, it's OK to link your parents in.)
4. Survey said: internships are now the hiring source of choice.
What you need to do: Get an internship. Or two. Or three.
The MSU study shows that 71% of employers indicated they would be seeking interns and co-ops during the school year. Up to half of these internships convert into full-time offers of employment.
In fact, an internship each summer isn't a bad idea if you can make that happen. Start looking in your freshman year for the work experiences that will position you to compete.
5. Survey said: 41% of employers want to wrap up their hiring during the first term of your senior year.
What you need to do: Don't wait until your senior year to get started.
A recent survey said the number 1 thing recent grads would have done differently, was "start earlier."
It sounds to me that the career preparation process is as much a part of being a college student as going to class and writing papers. In a way, we always knew that. But these are competitive times, and today's college student needs to be much more savvy about preparing for that transition from academics to career.
Start early, capitalize on the opportunities your campus offers, build relationships, and network. It's much easier to do that than to play "catch up" when you are three or four years into college.