NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- May is right around the corner, and that means it's time to party after years of diligent work toward a college degree ... and then to start looking for a job, a task that most have started already. It also means plenty of potential competition, as the National Center for Education Statistics projects 1.6 million students will graduate with bachelor's degrees this year.
The good news is that the average starting salary for college graduates who land a job in their chosen career rose to $45,327 last year, up 2.4% from 2012, the center says.
For college grads hurled into the competitive employment market, it's worth knowing what companies expect. NACE lists the top five qualities firms look for before extending a job offer to a new college graduate:
- Ability to work in a team
- Verbal communication skills
- Ability to make decisions and problem-solve
- Ability to find and process information
- Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
How do you match up? Sean Kenney and Sarah Friedell O'Connell of Essex Partners, a Boston career advisory firm specializing in senior executive and C-level career management counseling, say college grads should do five key things on a job search.Emphasize "clarity." "The more clear you are about the type of industry and position in which you are interested, the more your connections will be able to help you," the duo says. "If you don't have a general idea of what you want to do, tools such as ONetOnline.org can help you explore different occupations as well as the skill set needed for each position. Think about what you like to do and what you are good at; know your strengths and be comfortable talking about them with others." Leverage your part-time job experience. College grads often worry about the lack of professional experience they bring to a job hunt. But as Kenney and O'Connell say, "Not having a full-time job doesn't mean you don't have experience. "Any work you have done in the past, whether it be as a volunteer or during a summer job, can be used on your resume, if it is related to your industry," they say. "For example, if you were a waiter, you most likely have customer service skills and experience working in a fast-paced environment. Look at the skill set needed for each position and whether any of the skills you have acquired are related."