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NerdWallet Study: How New Graduates Found Their Jobs

Sept. 7, 2012
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As part of a recent study of senior survey reports at over 100 colleges and universities, NerdWallet sought to explore how college students typically find their first jobs.

16 of the institutions we analyzed chose to survey their students about how they obtained employment. Student responses could generally be grouped into 9 basic categories.

Workplace experience proves most effective when seeking employment

  • 22% of students indicated that previous employment or internship experience helped them find their first job after graduation
  • An additional 20% successfully utilized on-campus recruiting events
  • Students chose networking as a primary factor in securing employment about 18% of the time

Schools are important to students’ occupational success

Resources directly related to the university or college accounted for over 50% of the student responses. These include on-campus recruiting events (the 2nd most effective overall), career fairs, faculty, alumni and school-managed job boards.

However, our analysis also revealed general areas that some institutions could improve upon.

  • Overall, school job postings, referenced by 6% of students, do not appear to be any more effective than external job listings (job websites, classifieds, etc.), which were reported as a primary resource by 10% of respondents
  • In particular, public schools tend to underperform when it comes to school job postings (just 3% of students found them useful)
  • Ivy League universities seem lack success with career/employment fairs (deemed important by 6% of Ivy League students vs. 11% overall)

How do the methods of obtaining employment differ across types of schools?

  • Ivy League universities did well with on-campus recruiting/interviews (referenced 33% of the time vs. 18% overall) and school job postings (19% vs. 6% overall)
  • Students at private schools, including liberal arts colleges, tended to have more success when it came to placement assistance or references from faculty and academic departments (16% vs. 8% overall)
  • On-campus recruiting, at 33%, was the top method of locating employment at private universities
  • Students from liberal arts colleges were less likely to reference networking (8% vs. 14% overall), and previous employment (14% vs. 23% overall) as the source

The data reveals important takeaways for both students and schools

Students should take note to employ a variety of tactics when seeking a job, but in particular those that proved most effective for previous graduates. Clearly, summer internships or part-time jobs while still in school are critical – hiring employers want to see proof of a candidate’s past performance and work experience.

Institutions of higher education can help to improve their employment track record by investing in the types of events and services that are most effective at directly connecting students with employers, such as career fairs and recruiting events.