How Hopeful Are 2016 College Grads About Getting a Job?

Steady job growth over the last few years and promising reports of employers’ hiring projection point to a welcoming job market for grads entering the workforce in 2016. Entry level jobs for students with four year degrees are on the rise, and the unemployment rate for those over 25 years with a bachelor’s degree is at a mere 2.4 percent.

Are these positive signs enough to bolster a graduating class saddled with student debt and still reeling from a childhood plagued by the Great Recession? To find out if the incoming workforce’s expectations match economic realities, we surveyed new college grads on the job hunt to get their perspective on the state of the economy and see how they are navigating their current search.

Despite a dim view of the job market at large for recent grads, college students entering the workforce this year are optimistic about their individual employment prospects.

While 67 percent of those surveyed rated the overall market a 5 or lower on a 1-10 scale, 77 percent were confident that they would land a job this year.

This negative perception of the job market for the general population could be a result of familial influence. 63 percent surveyed said that they were not the first in their family to graduate from college, which suggests that their impressions could be swayed by parents and older siblings still struggling to pay off high student loans or frustrated by the slightly less promising market they entered as new graduates themselves a few years ago.

So what accounts for the personal optimism of this year’s graduating class? Most surveyed seem to think their degree will be the most influential factor in helping them get employed. With the educational sermon of the last two decades pushing a four-year degree as the only viable option for attaining gainful employment, this line of thinking comes as no surprise.

However, the increasing burden of student debt has encouraged many to seek alternative careers in manual labor and other trades that don’t require anything past a high school education (and potentially on-the-job training). But new grads seem accepting of the potential financial encumbrance in exchange for a degree – 76 percent of grads rated a 6 or higher when asked how hopeful they were about the future of their career, and 70 percent believed strongly that their degree would help them find a job.

Another factor in college-grad confidence could be their own motivation. 18 percent reported that they began looking for work 6-12 months before their commencement date, and only 5 percent said they planned to take a break before beginning their job hunt. They may also be empowered through seeing the successes and failures of their family before them, and having this as a guide to model their own careers after.

According to a new grad employment survey done by Accenture, “Four in 5 of this year’s graduates said they considered the availability of jobs in their field of study before deciding on their major.”

Most college graduates in 2016 have seen how to do it ‘wrong’ and ‘right’ at this point, and are in a much better position to plan ahead than the graduating classes before them.

While this year’s new workforce recognizes that we are still in a recovering market, they seem to have faith in their own ability to obtain a successful career with the advantage of their degrees, as well as their educated perspective on the economy and which careers will be the most advantageous in the future.

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Kylie Anderson is an L.A.-based writer who covered employment trends for the ZipRecruiter blog.

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