Throughout 2023, widespread fears of an upcoming recession have impacted the job market and made job-hunting even trickier for new grads. The biggest tech companies have laid off thousands of workers over the past few months, raising concerns among those who want to break into the tech industry right out of school.
However, there’s some good news: two-thirds of employers still expect to hire computer science graduates this spring, and just over half will hire information science and computer systems graduates. But that’s still a significant decrease from fall 2022 projections; plus, recent layoffs have flooded the market with early career professionals competing for the same positions.
Despite the sobering news, new grads who are willing to put in the work and adapt their job-hunting strategies are landing jobs at great companies, according to Bob Carlton, career coach and president of College MatchPoint.
Here are some ways to land a great job in today's fast-changing labor market.
Prepare to Compete on Skills and Impact
These days, promoting a high GPA or hard work won’t get you invited to interviews. To compete against candidates with a proven track record, you need to identify the skills that are critical to success in a particular role and establish that you not only possess those skills, but are capable of using them to achieve exceptional results.
But how can you determine what a company actually wants in terms of results? You can map a job title to the skills and the outcomes you will be expected to deliver in that role. Then, create a portfolio of previous projects that showcase your related areas of expertise and the impact of your work.
Another way is to conduct informational interviews with successful alumni. The goal of an informational interview is not to ask for a job, advised Beth Hendler-Grunt, president of Next Great Step. It’s to get clarity on the top skills that someone needs to be successful in a particular role by asking the right questions.
While you’re researching, find ways to tip the scales in your favor over workers who have been out of school for a while. For instance, if you’ve already worked with a new technology such as machine learning, describing how you applied it can demonstrate nimbleness and the ability to pivot and try new things, advised Hazel Raja, associate dean and senior director of the Career Development Center at Pomona College.
Close Gaps through Self-Directed Learning
If your search is being hindered by a lack of real-world experience, be deliberate about selecting an internship that will help you close the gaps and boost your appeal.
Even if you’re spending most of your time searching for a job, you can still enhance your portfolio by completing a series of short-term professional (and paid!) assignments known as micro-internships. Earning a certificate in project management, block chain, AWS or soft skills like critical thinking or communication can also help you stand out to hiring managers. Last but certainly not least, don’t be afraid to leverage your personal projects—if you’ve created an app or game on your own, for instance, that shows off your skills and initiative.
Define and Express Your Value
The inability to articulate a high-impact value proposition is another reason why new graduates struggle to get hired after college.
A recent grad’s value proposition often fails to connect because it focuses on them and their needs. A value proposition is supposed to be a statement or promise of the tangible results a company will get from hiring you.
Creating a value proposition that will resonate with a hiring manager is a two-step process. First, you need to research the company to better understand its priorities and current initiatives. Then, you need to frame your skills and experience in a way that shows you are capable of helping them achieve their goals.
For instance, Grunt suggests that you say something like: “Because I understand that your biggest priorities involve cloud-based electronic health records and data security, I believe that my minor in cybersecurity and the skills I acquired during my internship at XYZ Company will help you achieve your goals.”
Exercise Purpose and Perseverance to Uncover New Opportunities
Despite the layoffs in big tech, skilled new graduates are still in demand in a variety of other sectors. Sure, the biggest tech companies have initiated layoffs—but organizations in a wide array of industries continue to hire tech pros for a number of different specializations and roles.
Understanding your values, interests, personality and skills (VIPS) is the first step toward expanding your job search to industries that you may not have considered before, Raja says. For instance, February job postings for technology positions rose the most in scientific and tech services industry, finance and insurance and manufacturing.
Many companies impacted by the slowing economy are postponing the start dates for interns who received full-time offers. Although that’s better than having an offer rescinded, you need to keep your options open until you actually make the transition.
Sending one email or making one follow-up phone call won’t cut it, either. Given the current market conditions, you need to be professionally and appropriately persistent in following up with a hiring manager.
Network Like a Pro
This year’s graduates need to employ job hunting strategies that demonstrate maturity beyond their years. For instance, it takes dozens or even hundreds of professional connections to network your way into a job. If you haven’t already, you need to start growing your connections and attending tech events to establish new relationships.
You also need a mentor who is at least one step ahead of you on their career journey to show you the ropes when you have little to no experience, Carlton says. Although it may seem like a lot of work (and it is), learning how to search for (and land) a job in what has become a more challenging labor market will benefit you throughout your career.