Competition for Jobs is Fierce among Graduates

The increasing  importance of work-related experience

It used to be that employers would hire new college graduates, giving them the chance to work while they learned necessary job skills, but not anymore. The recent loss of jobs across multiple economic sectors has led experienced workers to vie for positions they would not have considered in better times. As a result, employers now have a wide range of workers to choose from in filling entry-level positions.

Employers stand to gain from the experience of seasoned workers, which makes it difficult for new college graduates to compete. More and more, employers require that recent college graduates have some kind of work experience. Work experience as a job prerequisite for new college graduates may seem like a contradiction of terms, but in reality there are things students and new graduates can do to gain valuable gain work before searching for jobs.

College internships

The last couple of decades have seen a rise in the availability and types of internship assignments for college students, particularly for undergraduates.

In the past, work internships were geared to students seeking degrees in engineering, architecture and other specialized fields where newly-acquired technical knowledge could be applied in practical settings. At the graduate level, internships have always been required of medical students, but they were also common in teaching and social work. With the growth of the service economy in recent decades, internships have become increasingly common in computer information technology, media production, marketing, and finance.

Like so many things, internships have waned as a result of the recession, but they have not disappeared altogether.  Top-tier schools, at least, continue to be targeted by large companies offering internships for students in their first, second, and third years of college.

International internships

Recent exponential growth in international trade and investment has increased the demand for talented employees with international knowledge and multi-cultural experience. Many American students and young professionals travel overseas to participate in internships and similar opportunities that provide practical exposure to the business world outside the United States.Conversely, in the United States more internships and business externships have opened up for foreign students and professionals.

The fact that many of these internships do not offer a salary  has not deterred students from seeking them out. Indeed, according to the Institute of International Education, between 2000 and 2008 the number of overseas internships created annually nearly doubled, from 6,940 to 13,658.  Not surprisingly, rising unemployment rates in 2009 were accompanied by further increases in the number of overseas internships.

Effects of the New International Economy

The new global economy requires that many workers and managers be knowledgeable about other countries and cultures. In a recent Chicago Tribune article, Victor C. Johnson, senior public policy advisor for NAFSA: Association of International Educators, said that an internship or related experience abroad will soon be a prerequisite for a good job. Calling this “the next digital divide,” he added,“the kids who graduate from school who have international experience are going to have a leg up in gaining successful lives…We just hear CEO after CEO saying that the work force of the future, really the work force of the present, has to be a cross-culturally competent work force. Work forces are cross-cultural; businesses are global,” he said. In the same article, Craig Brown, executive vice president of The Association for International Practical Training, a nonprofit internship-placement agency, explained, “It used to be that speaking English meant you could work anywhere in the world, but it’s not the case anymore. Companies are selecting candidates who are multilingual.”

Good reasons to learn a second (or third) language

More and more American students are competing for jobs with foreign students who, in addition to their native language, have learned English and perhaps a third language, as part of their educational curriculum.  That increasing competition is one more good reason for American students to start taking better advantage of the many foreign language courses offered by American universities, many of which are being expanded under new policy directives and financial support from the federal government.

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