Will Hubbard spent the summer after his junior year preparing for life after college. While other students were catching rays, Hubbard, an international-relations major at American University, was e-mailing and making calls to Deloitte, the consulting firm. Come fall, when Deloitte recruiters visited campus, Hubbard had a leg up. "Most people were networking for the first time," Hubbard says. "I knew people from Deloitte from the proactive things I had done."
Although it still takes hustle to land a job, things are looking up for college grads for the second straight year. "We're starting to see a little more breadth in the employers visiting campus," says Richard Hearin, director of the career center at the University of Maryland, where recruiting for private-sector jobs is up 20% this year. The National Association of Colleges and Employers expects hiring to be up 13.5% for the class of 2011 over last year's levels. The only sector that's down is government jobs.
Competition is still fierce. "Recruiters are looking for the complete package," says Kathy Wieland, director of business career services at Iowa State University. That includes academic achievement, demonstrated leadership and multiple internships. By the time he interviewed, Hubbard had spoken with about 25 people at Deloitte. He knew most of the recruiters, and he knew the company inside and out. The payoff? A job as a federal government analyst in Deloitte's Washington, D.C., office.