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Never Too Late to Find the Right Job

In recent weeks, the phone at the Notre Dame career center has been ringing more than it usually does at this time of year. Counselors have been fielding phone calls from companies that do most of their undergraduate hiring in the fall -- among them Microsoft (MSFT), Bear Stearns (BSC), and Accenture (ACN). The reason? The strong job market, which means that the early-bird job candidates can be more choosy, leaving some businesses shorthanded.

"The number of offers out there are up, which means your chances of a student accepting a company's offer is down a bit," says Raymond A. Vander Heyden, assistant director of business career programs at Notre Dame. "Therefore, some banks and companies still have a few open positions."

With the job market the strongest it has been since 2000 (see BW Online, 3/21/06, "The Jobs Come Looking for Grads"), there is a higher chance for unemployed business majors to get an offer and for students with an unenticing offer to find something they think is more worthwhile or lucrative. This year, MonsterTRAK -- the student portion of the job Web site -- has seen a 40% jump in postings in the business category and an 8% increase in the number of employers overall who were planning to hire in the spring and summer.

Though positions may be out there, it is not always easy to find them. Here are some tips for last-minute job hunters:

Make Connections. Since career fairs are pretty much finished for the year and online job listings are checked by thousands of people, often the best way to hear about openings is through employees of your choice company. That's how Mark Stoker, a senior at Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Management, got an interview for a controller position at Marriott International (MAR). It led to a job offer he accepted just last week.

If you do not have a large network of resources, begin to make one. Most campus career centers and individual business schools keep track of alumni. They can be a valuable resource. Many are willing to give informal recruitment advice or insider tips. Just remember to stay in touch with your newfound connections and call to say hi even when you don't need something from them.

Pick a city. Sometimes maintaining and creating connections is not enough. It is much easier to network if you live where you want to work. "The fact that you're already there shows a strong signal that that's where you want to be," says Susie Clark, director of undergraduate career services at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business.

Get face time with a potential employer. Once you've moved past the r?sum? and cover letter phase, it's easy to have anxiety about talking on the phone or having an in-person interview. "Students need to remember that they need to get in front of people as opposed to going through some of the old comfort patterns of hiding behind e-mail to sell themselves," says Amy Van Kirk, PricewaterhouseCoopers' U.S. campus recruiting director.

Emphasize adaptability, related past experiences, leadership roles, and how you can work on a team. Being business-savvy is obviously a characteristic that a potential entry-level candidate should have. However, articulating that knowledge is the difficult part. Many university career centers offer mock interviews, which focus on straight interviewing as well as case studies.

Be the early bird. Traditional hiring season for investment banks and consulting and accounting firms is in the fall, so most large companies have fewer positions available by spring. At this time of year, these big names will most likely only be hiring for unplanned, single jobs, not large analyst classes, so the sooner you find out, the better. Some job-seekers might forget about using the school career center during finals and graduation activities, so you have the possibility of being first in line there.

Consider a lesser-known, smaller company or start-up. If a job at a large company is just too hard to get, look at small or mid-sized firms, which often hire at this stage in the game. Many advertising and marketing positions are also being filled now since they do not usually require intense, structured training like jobs at investment banks or accounting firms. "A lot of the time there are marketing projects that come up in the summer. It's a different animal," says Lindsay Terry, manager of undergraduate employer development at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Make yourself available for the right job. If you are really down on your luck and can't find a job during the summer, there is another option -- targeting January as a start date. PricewaterhouseCoopers, which looks for candidates year round and hires about 30% in the spring, will consider students who apply now for positions in six to nine months. While the firm is full for the summer and fall, Van Kirk says a candidate could make it into the company for spring 2007.

Consider finding a job your top priority. Whether recent graduates are looking for summer, fall, or spring employment, they should remember that the summer should not be an excuse to take time off from the job search, even if they have a part-time job. The competition will only grow. After you graduate, there's no such thing as summer vacation.

Gordon is a project assistant for BusinessWeek Online in New York

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