Ruth Mantell, a personal-finance reporter for MarketWatch, a service of the Wall Street Journal Digital Network, advised college students about successfully making the transition from college to career during the Perspectives 2011, The Raymond and Florence Witt Lecture Series: Getting a job, changing careers: navigating the world of work. Mantell spoke about a variety of topics including graduate degrees, negotiating pay, relocating, and internships.
“In some ways, college students have the golden ticket. The unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree is about 4 percent compared to 9 percent for the general population, but challenges remain for fresh college graduates remain because of youth and inexperience.” she said.
Mantell writes about careers, the labor market, and issues that concern working families, and more. She also covers breaking news on jobless claims and other U.S. Labor Department data. She regularly writes features for The Wall Street Journal Sunday, and posts for WSJ.com’s “Juggle” blog about balancing work and family. She is working on a new jobs blog for MarketWatch that will offer tips for workers about careers and compensation.
According to Mantell, some of the top fields for job growth are nursing, education, customer service, and business, but economists are still unsure about the future. “The economy is going through massive amount of change right now. We are emerging from a tough recession and economists are not exactly sure what the economy is going to look like in the next few years.”
With an uncertain economy, some students turn to graduate degrees to increase their employability. While graduates degrees can mean lower unemployment rates and increased lifetime earnings, Mantell said, “You want to make sure you’re choosing the right graduate degree if you’re going for greater earnings potential. In some cases, you can be better served by specialized or on-the-job training.”
Young workers may become prone to “job hopping” or changing jobs frequently. “It’s okay to change jobs, but before you do so, just make sure you’re really considering why you’re doing it because you may end up going into another spot that you also don’t like and also leave very quickly,” she said. “If a possible employer sees you as a job hopper, they’re not going to want to hire you. If they don’t think you’ll going to stick with them, they’re not going to make the investment.”
Relocating to a new city can also be risky. “Before you move, you need to figure out how to pay the bills. A few years ago, you needed a two or three months of living expenses, but because of the uncertain job market, it needs to be six to nine months,” Mantell advised. You want to be able you can support yourself. Make sure there are opportunities in your new city.”
Mantell emphasized the importance of networking in finding a new job.
Social media can also help or hinder young professionals in securing a job. “Social media can help you build a brand of you. You also need to be careful. Don’t put anything out there that you’re going to be embarrassed about or make you unemployable later. People underestimate how long posting on the Internet can last. One night it seems like fun, but not so much the next morning,” Mantell said.
“Employers really do look. If they see something they don’t like on a Facebook page, they won’t make the offer,” she continued.
According to Mantell, preparation can help with interviewing and negotiating salary, two of the most stressful parts of the job searching process. “Prepare a few sound bites about your qualifications,” she said. Mantell also stressed the importance of punctuality. “One employer told me that when he interviews recent college graduates, six out of ten show up late. It should be none out of the ten.”
With negotiating, Mantell tells recent graduates, “to know your value. This will show that you’ve done your research and it will help your bargaining position and also impress them.”
Though economic recovery is uncertain, she urges students to take risks, especially in the early stages of their career.