Hiring recent college grads makes great business sense. Plus, given the chance, they could even teach you a thing or two


By Max Berry


Despite what some recent figures from America's job market would have you believe, companies of all sizes are hiring new college graduates at a higher rate than in years past. A recent survey conducted by CollegeGrad.com found that 60% of American companies surveyed plan to recruit more grads in 2008 than they did last year. The reasons for the upswing are many, as are the potential benefits of hiring some new grads of your own.



Graduate Perks
"Small companies drive the engines of job creation," says David Bedard, author of Graduate and Grow Rich. "Up and coming companies need young grads." In sluggish economic times, this may be truer than ever. Recruiting and training a new graduate at an entry-level salary is much more effective for a small business owner on a tight budget than seeking out a more experienced prospect who is already used to higher pay. Factor in the number of baby boomers reaching retirement age-not to mention the salary space they leave behind-and hiring an energetic young grad begins to look like the smartest move of all.


"More than anything, grads are looking for a break and a mentor," says Bedard. And a mentorship should not be taken lightly, especially when a young employee, just beginning their career and eager to make an impression, is so amenable to the ideas and strategies of a mentor.


There are logistical benefits to hiring new graduates as well: They're more tech savvy than generations past; they haven't had time to put down roots and are more willing to relocate than someone with a family; many of them are in debt, and will be extra motivated to get themselves back in the black. Plus, after 18 years of the classroom, new graduates are anxious to apply all that hypothetical knowledge to a real-world job-and they have the energy to do it.


The New American ‘Intrepreneur'
For all that new grads have to offer, an employer needs to offer just as much in return. "There is no such thing as a cradle-to-grave job anymore," says Bedard. "If new grads have any entrepreneurial spirit at all, they're going to want to test the waters."


This entrepreneurial desire to "test the waters" may have helped propagate the myth that Generation Y is a flighty bunch; pampered, demanding, ready to give their two weeks at the faintest whiff of a better offer. While Bedard concedes that the reputation may be earned in isolated cases, more than anything these children of the entrepreneurial age are, as Bedard puts it, "looking for the fit," the job that will satisfy their independent, hands-on ambitions.


When it comes to courting America's brightest graduates, the ability to offer them that may be the key advantage an independent entrepreneur has on a major corporation. A national or multi-national corporatioin is regimented in a way that may not appeal to this generation, one that subscribes to what Bedard has dubbed the "make-a-job instead of take-a-job mentality."


A small company can't offer a new graduate the signing bonus or inflated salary that a large company can. What it offers instead for a young person, hungry to find their fit and test their skills, is a stake in the future of a company, be it through stocks, profit sharing, or simply a more tactile handle on day-to-day operations. According to Bedard, a small company offers a twenty-something the chance to "be an entrepreneur within a job, to feed their desire to make decisions on the front line." Employees who look for the chance to do just that are what Bedard likes to call "intrepreneurs."


Small companies are also more likely to offer their employees flexible hours, providing for a better work-life balance, which, according to a recent CollegeGrad.com survey, now surpasses financial considerations for employees aged 21 to 30.


A Turning Tide
"More graduates are going for newer and younger companies rather than blue chips," says Bedard. He's right. Another CollegeGrad.com poll, conducted in February 2006, found that 70% of recent graduates surveyed would prefer to work for a small or mid-sized company than a large one. This may be due to growing suspicions-after years of corporate reorganization, downsizing, and, in the worst cases, outright scandal-about the scruples of many large corporations. "I see more emphasis in college and business school on ethics," says Bedard. "Ethics is a buzz word on campus and that's a good thing."


But as America's graduates begin to think outside the box as to where, and with whom, their first jobs can be found, America's entrepreneurs should keep their minds just as open. Don't rule anybody out too soon. Bedard recommends looking to smaller schools-those prowled less frequently by major corporations looking to make hires-and community colleges. "Community colleges are way ahead of four year schools when it comes to teaching entrepreneurship," he says. "They make it a part of their culture."


The benefits of making Generation Y a part of yours could be substantial.