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The Job Market Looks Better for 2021 College Graduates

Career experts offer resume tips and advice about graduates’ job prospects this year.

Posted in: Faculty Voices

The past year upended the job market for millions, but there’s good news for spring 2021 graduates entering the workforce: Adam Mayer, Montclair State’s director of Career Development, and Jeffrey Poulos, career advisor for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, say that college graduates can expect a healthier job market than last spring.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, we’re thankfully seeing a growing sense of optimism from employers,” says Mayer.

And the numbers prove it. The hiring of recent college graduates is up 7.2% over this time last year, according to the Job Outlook 2021 Spring Update published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

“There are plenty of new opportunities now more than ever in industries such as health care and financial technology as well as customer service due to the pandemic,” says Poulos.

Need resume help? Here, Mayer and Poulos share tips and advice for those ready to start applying.

Skills that employers want to see on resumes

Include examples of these top three attributes that employers want to see if you want to make your resume stand out:

  1. Ability to work on a team
  2. Problem-solving skills
  3. Application of analytical and quantitative skills

“Representing teamwork can be accomplished by describing the work of job seekers’ past/current teams,” says Mayer. That can mean participation in volunteer groups, academic group projects and/or pay-based work.

As for problem-solving skills, describe them briefly in your resume, but be prepared with SAR (situation/action/result) narratives to provide more specific examples during a job interview. Then, use the same approach to represent your analytical and quantitative skills.

“Using real work examples will highlight your personality and character to the interviewer(s),” says Poulos. “A SAR example can further strengthen your job tasks or responsibilities you use to describe your experiences on the resume.”

And don’t forget to highlight other key skills on your resume, including verbal and written communication, leadership and flexibility/adaptability. Speaking of adaptability…

Use skills learned during COVID pandemic on your resume

Mayer says that an often overlooked component of the pandemic is an increase in skill development, and many of these skills lend themselves to the job search. His tip? Leverage this experience to sell yourself as a candidate:

  • Organizational skills: Suddenly switching to virtual classes and submitting all work remotely is no easy task. “Job seekers should incorporate stories highlighting their ability to prioritize responsibilities in a virtual environment,” says Mayer.
  • Initiative/leadership skills: In job interviews, Mayer says, describe how you managed your autonomy. “What techniques worked well, what forms of digital assistance worked best and why?”

Think of it this way – your experience adapting quickly to a virtual learning environment can showcase your self-management skills and align with the influx of jobs that include remote work.

Avoid job-search burnout

Burnout became a workplace buzzword over the past year, but don’t exhaust yourself before you even get an interview.

“Job searching in general can be extremely frustrating, even more so when juggling stressors associated with a pandemic,” says Mayer. “Be sure to schedule regular breaks while job searching, celebrate your victories, be mindful of negative self-talk and regularly speak with others about your job search – in other words, don’t self-isolate.”

And most importantly, don’t lose hope.

“In general, your career is a marathon not a sprint,” says Poulos. “Try not to tie your expectations and feelings of self worth to strict milestones you need to achieve in your career.”

Need more advice before you start applying? On their weekly podcast, “Manual or Automatic: What Gears are Driving Your Career?” Adam Mayer and Jeff Poulos offer useful tips and tricks for job seekers. Listen to episodes of the podcast.

Jeffrey Poulos and Adam Mayer
Jeffrey Poulos, career advisor for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and Adam Mayer Adam Mayer, Montclair State’s director of Career Development.