Many aspiring executives flock to business schools to obtain the coveted MBA degree. Optimism oozes out of every pore, while visions of money, promotions, raises and opportunities dance in their head. Then, graduation comes. Uncertainty and doubt flood the mind as reality begins to take hold. They have to find a job and work now. For most MBA graduates, it’s not a daunting task. However, the trends are starting to change and show stress in the market, even for the MBA graduates. Let’s take a look at what seems to work for these go-getters when it comes to finding a job, even in a tough economy. Networking. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Networking is still the best method for gaining employment. I’ve seen this on recruiter boards where recruiters were talking about the #1 source for new employees; that is, recommendations from their current employees. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, the class of 2009 was, for the most part, employed at graduation (78%). Most of these positions were within an organization (79%) and 5 percent were self-employed. Of the graduating class, 16 percent were unemployed at graduation. For the employed graduates, one-third identified their opportunities as being found within their own network of contacts. This suggests that if you don’t learn to build a lot of connections, you’re seriously limiting your ability to gain employment. In my new book, I share a story of an MBA graduate who builds his own peer group to support his decision to go to college for his MBA. He continued using this group for many years afterwards. In fact, they helped him obtain his first TWO jobs out of college. For over a decade, this support group helped him along each step of his career. Obviously, there’s a lot of value to building your own network, well beyond your first job out of school. The next biggest source was the school’s on-campus interviews followed by the school’s alumni network. Other sources beyond these included company websites, job fairs, online job boards, internet search and job agencies. Career Services. One-third of the employed graduates of 2009 found career services to be extremely helpful in getting a job. Naturally, this statistic is driven by those who got a job after graduation. Regardless, the services provided by schools are still worthy of your consideration and should be utilized in your search. But why did some graduates fail to find a job? Lack of Experience. Of those that didn’t acquire employment at graduation (46%), a lack of a sufficient number of years of work experience was cited as a major contributor. In fact, there was a correlation between age and unemployment. For those 27 and younger, 20 percent were unemployed, compared to 16 percent for those 28 to 34 and 14 percent for graduates age 35 and older. The interesting part of this is that in another survey by GMAC, they found that experienced professionals were losing direct hiring opportunities by a rate of about 10 percent per year over the past few years. This may be due to the fact that the experience companies desire must be relevant to the job, industry or market. Companies could be using the increased pool of potential candidates to gain the exact level of skill and experience they need. After all, there’s nothing more valuable than someone who can walk into a job and be a great performer without any training or supervision. Lack of job openings. A lack of job openings for which to interview was cited by 39 percent of respondants. In the current economy, this isn’t a big surprise. Projections in 2009 estimated growth in emerging and developing economies to decrease to about 1.5 to 2.5 percent, from 6.1 percent the previous year. Many of the US companies in 2008 were projecting to reduce their hiring by half. For example, companies hired 35, 261 graduates from management programs in 2008. The projection for 2009 was 21,855, indicating a major increase in competition for employment. With unemployment still around 10 percent in the US and even higher in other countries, competition for opportunities still remains high. While much of these statistics may not feel like they are giving you something new, they do highlight a few key factors that we seem to overlook in our career. First, finding a job is your responsibility. Luckily, many graduates are doing just that and shaking the idea that when we graduate, someone will recognize our accomplishment and reward us with a job. Obviously, those days are long gone. Secondly, experience is valuable, but not just any experience. Companies want employees that are “plug and play.” This may prove a challenge for job hoppers in the future. We may be forced to choose our path carefully, taking time to identify the key transferable skills that will take us into our next job. Of course, we’ll have to combine that will success stories that support the development of those stills, especially if we want a company to be interested in us. Lastly, the job market is difficult. As you may read in my post “I’m an MBA Grad: Now Where?”, the opportunities in the future are shifting more towards growing businesses; that is, marketing, sales and finance. Finding a new job in other areas may prove to be a considerable challenge. Companies are trying to get back on their feet. Find a way to help them do that and you will find a job.