Authors: Emily Drees, Sarah Hadley, Lauren Horsch, Taylor Grangaard, Melanie Mackey and Nora Heaton
A few weeks shy of graduating in May, Brandt Heitman is ready to take a mechanical engineering degree from Iowa State University to a job at AllSteel in Muscatine, debt free.
“Engineering is a tech field and everyone needs engineers,” a confident Heitman, 23, said about working at the office furniture manufacturing company where he did an internship three years ago.
But while job prospects have improved in some professions since previous years, this spring’s Iowa college graduates with the best chances to land jobs will be those demonstrating professional experience they gained while in college from more than place.
“In 1999, one internship was good. Now, you might need three internships to get ahead of the curve,” Angi McKie, marketing and public relations director at the University of Iowa’s Pomerantz Career Center, said.
“Employers will compare apples to apples. More experience means there are more apples in one basket than the other.”
Heitman’s first internship at AllSteel, for example, was one of four he had in college.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has found graduates who have had paid internships are more likely to land jobs sooner than those who had unpaid positions or no internship experience at all. Moreover, research from the association, which connects campus career centers and college recruiters in human resources departments, shows that students who take full advantage of career centers tend to do better in the job market.
That edge for the first job out of college is important because competition in the job market has tightened. A new survey released April 17 by NACE revealed that employers are not as gung-ho about their hiring plans as they were previously.
Employers surveyed in the NACE Job Outlook Spring Update said they expect to hire, overall, 2.1 percent more 2013 college graduates than they hired from the Class of 2012. They had been more optimistic in fall 2012 when they anticipated hiring 13 percent more, the report states.
Despite that, prospects for jobs in a wide variety of fields in Iowa are better than they were at this time last year, Kerry Koonce, communications director at Iowa Workforce Development, said.
Several industries across the board have seen growth, Koonce said, especially in high-tech and fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The largest concentration of workers reported in Iowa’s labor analysis for 2012, released in March, was in education, health care and social services.
McKie said the Pomerantz Career Center has facilitated more interviews this year than last. Some UI job fairs have had waiting lists for employer registration, she said.
Students who have plugged away at part-time unpaid internships of about 10 hours per week while holding a part-time job, all while going to school, are getting attention, McKie said. Other university activities, like clubs or sports, can help offset less work experience in some cases.
Hanna Bartholic spent her last semester at Drake University applying for advertising internships in the Twin Cities area and was nervous. “The competition for entry level jobs (at advertising agencies) is extremely competitive,” Bartholic, 22 and a Minnesota native, said.
She has worked with her academic adviser to network and find positions that fit her interests. “It’s really finding ones that fit with the things that I want to do, that I’m having the most trouble with,” she said.
Sarah Smith, 22, an ISU senior who is to graduate with a degree in graphic design, has taken internships while in college and worked through online sources like SimplyHired.com, Monster.com, ISU’s career management resources, faculty emails and word-of-mouth.
“With the economy today, it’s obviously hard to tell,” Smith said about prospects for landing a job in graphic design out of college.
One consistent fact every year for college graduates seeking jobs, regardless of the economy or fluctuations in industry hiring patterns, is that flexibility helps. Mount Mercy University senior Bruce Payne is willing to relocate, even though he prefers to use his double major in criminal justice and computer science in the Cedar Rapids area.
Tech-savvy even in high school student, Payne, 22, said he wants to help people solve technology problems, as well as pursue his dream since junior high school of being in law enforcement. “I’ve always wanted to help others and serve my community, having every day be a new day,” Payne said.