Corporate investment and a diverse workforce power the city's progress read more
The exams are over, the ceremonial fanfare has died down and now you, as a college graduate, are faced with one of the biggest decisions of your life. What will you do next?
Recent college grads in Atlanta are cashing in on the city’s opportunities as they hunt down their first career-centric jobs. This 10th fastest-growing city in America is home to over a dozen Fortune 500 companies and offers a bustling economy, a higher-than-average wage rate overall and is one of the most livable cities in America. That’s the big picture. But what does a recent grad, diploma firmly in hand, need to know about job hunting in this vibrant metropolis?
Think of the Atlanta job market as a giant pie. The biggest slice of that pie consists of the healthcare and social assistance industries, which had the highest number of local job postings for entry-level bachelor’s degree talent over the last year. If you’ve spent your undergrad years training in the healthcare field, then you’ve made a good decision—healthcare jobs alone account for 25.4 percent of all job postings seeking grads in the metro Atlanta area, with the highest demand being for registered nurses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, due to population growth and the increasing need for health services by Baby Boomers, healthcare jobs will continue to be plentiful well into the future.
The next biggest slices of the job-market pie are in scientific and technical services (software developers and engineers), administrative and support services, waste management and remediation services, finance, accounting and insurance services, followed by manufacturing. “We’ve seen an uptick in the need for talent in the insurance and healthcare industries,” says Paulian Rivas, account manager with Avenica, a career-matching platform that has successfully matched college graduate job seekers to entry-level opportunities for more than 20 years. “As both industries are tasked with solving some of today’s bigger problems and challenges, more people are needed to help in this work.”
Additionally, the need for software developers today in Atlanta is huge as well. “All over the country, companies are having a hard time finding qualified software developers. In the Atlanta market, leading companies like MailChimp and FullStory are always looking for talent,” says Andreas Economopolous, director of recruiting for Professional Insight. That trend is certainly expected to continue, as Atlanta has been recognized by Cushman & Wakefield as one of the country’s Top 25 Tech Markets; in fact, a recent CBRE report revealed that Atlanta is the fourth-fastest growing tech market in the nation.
To find out which companies hire the most grads, LinkedIn, a leading social network for professionals worldwide, conducted a study showing that The Home Depot, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, big four accounting firm Ernst & Young and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all based in Atlanta, hired the most grads in 2018. As a matter of fact, LinkedIn chose Atlanta as eighth on its list of top U.S. cities hiring new college graduates. So whether you graduated from a local college or university or are relocating after graduating in another state, you’re going to find plenty of opportunity in the ATL.
What grads bring to the table
Employers tell recruiters that they don’t just look for graduates with industry-specific coursework or experience under their belts. They especially seek graduates with propensities for customer service, sales, scheduling and budgeting. Just because a diploma shows that a student earned a degree in art history doesn’t mean she’s doomed to languish, waiting for that dream job at an art museum. Rivas explains what college grads frequently find surprising as they job hunt.
“Often, they think they should work within an industry because of the degree they received in college—for instance, finance majors working in the finance industry. But finance majors, just like English, history, business or accounting majors, are needed in insurance and healthcare as well,” she says. “Entry-level employees starting in the fields of healthcare and insurance can expect robust, interesting careers working with all kinds of people, solving diverse and important problems.”
Recent college grads are typically Millennials, with the first of the Gen Zers (born after 1996) just now beginning to graduate from college. Amy Lancaster-King, director of workforce development at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, explains that these grads bring unique skills to the table for employers in Atlanta. “The most important skills a grad can offer an employer are tech skills, social skills and the ability to take initiative with projects. All those are important, but I would add that adaptability — the ability to learn new programs and procedures and to adjust to an ever-changing work environment — are very important skills needed for today’s work environment.” So, consider where your strengths lie and look at job postings with a fresh eye. The social skills you honed conducting art museum tours as a volunteer might make you a perfect candidate to work as a customer-service rep at a hospital, for instance. Lancaster-King adds, “Many skills are relevant across varied industries.”
Economopolous explains that tech companies will, of course, look for highly skilled college graduates who know the ropes in computer science. However, graduates who developed even a basic tech skill set while earning a degree in another field can also succeed in finding an IT job. “If a company’s product is software, they’re going to be a lot more picky than, say, a company that makes chairs and needs a software guy to write the code to sell the parts via e-commerce,” he notes. “Coca-Cola, The Home Depot—they aren’t tech companies, but they definitely need software developers.” In other words, don’t sweat it if your major was agriculture but you’ve got solid tech skills you can offer a manufacturing company or accounting firm.
Jessica Lyon, western region vice president at Avenica, explains that larger companies often look for recent grads for specific reasons. “Cultural competence and global awareness are strong positives for these candidates, especially in today’s business environment, where there’s a heavier focus on globalization and interconnectedness.” In short, recent grads tend to adapt quickly to management’s changing expectations—a key to thriving in today’s fast-paced work environments. An ability to understand different cultures and to work in cross-cultural business teams nationally and internationally is a skill that typically comes naturally to younger workers.
Start the search
“One tried-and-true way for candidates to find opportunities is on online job boards, like Indeed and LinkedIn,” Rivas says. “However, we absolutely recommend that candidates attend job fairs; there are so many different opportunities to explore and they’re all in one location. Candidates can practice speaking with employers to become more comfortable when it comes time to go through the interview process.” And just because you’ve graduated doesn’t mean you have to cut ties with your alma mater. If you haven’t already, contact your college’s career center or counselors to clue you in about job fairs in Atlanta that relate to specific industries or degrees.
Economopolous also urges job seekers to use online searches to take a deep dive into what a company does and what it offers employees.
“Know your audience. Do research, go to the company’s website and understand exactly what the company does,” he recommends.
The more you know about a company and its inner workings, the more prepared you’ll be to impress an interviewer by asking relevant questions, should you land that prized first interview.
Online reviews about a company are actually an invaluable research tool for job seekers. According to a recent survey of job seekers conducted by Avenica, “ company’s online reputation is rated as more important than the company’s mission, insurance benefits, vacation, personal time off and retirement savings programs.” Lyon explains further, “We found that Glassdoor was the go-to source for applicants when they were researching a company’s reputation. But the key reviewing site for a company may vary based on industry or location.”
Beyond the search for job openings, job hunters should consider a number of other elements as well. Besides choosing a field in which to focus the job hunt, recent graduates should research the perks and benefits offered by employers. Companies set themselves apart from their competition by offering enticing benefits, like remote work opportunities, flexible scheduling, health club memberships, complimentary wellness programs and generous vacation time.
Another possible benefit for a new employee is the opportunity to receive mentoring from industry leaders. “Employers need experienced talent in higher-level positions, but they also need entry-level talent they can train and develop into leaders for the future,” Rivas explains. “There’s work to be done and positions at all levels, but because hiring and turnover can be so costly to companies, especially with higher-level positions, companies develop strong training and succession plans that help them to retain and develop their talent. College grads should ask about development opportunities in order to show they’re interested in a long-term relationship with an employer, but also to know that the employer invests in its people.”
When it’s time to craft your resume, Rivas has some shrewd advice for recent grads who might not have much industry-specific work experience. “Employers are definitely looking for candidates with volunteer experience. It shows initiative, a strong work ethic and a willingness to engage in the workplace community and culture. In general, any experiences, volunteer or otherwise, where a candidate can show they’re a team player, take direction and exhibit leadership qualities are great additions to an entry-level candidate’s resume.” And when it comes to entry-level positions, she says all work experience is worth noting. “Flipping burgers can be evidence of a great work ethic and the ability to follow direction. Serving and bartending can show customer-service skills, communication and an ability to multitask while under pressure and with conflicting priorities. It’s all in how a candidate frames the experiences and shows what they learned from each.”
What’s more, don’t ignore opportunities to accept an internship, paid or unpaid (if you can swing it), while you job hunt. According to Peter Jones, author of “Five Benefits of Accepting an Internship after College” for JobNetwork.com, “Bottom line—internships make your resume look better. Most companies actually consider them a prerequisite for most quality jobs. Having this on your resume can actually give you a competitive edge when you hit the job market for real.”
Grads who set aside time every day to focus on a systematic job search stand to reap major rewards from the effort. Even if you’re waiting tables at one of Atlanta’s extraordinary eateries in order to keep food on your own table, don’t be discouraged—use your time to network with customers and co-workers to learn about career-track job opportunities in the area.