With ten days until graduation, Principia College seniors are thinking hard about life after college. In today’s unpromising job market, finding the right next step to employment may seem intimidating to this year’s graduates.

Fortunately, there is good news for 2010 graduates from employers nationwide. A report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that the job outlook for this year’s graduates has improved, projecting that 5.3% more graduates will be hired this year than in 2009.  Furthermore, almost a quarter (24.5%) of this year’s graduates already have jobs lined up for after graduation.

Principia prepares its students well for life and employment after graduation, said Jim Brandt, ACA’s Career Coordinator: “Graduates come out of Prin well-rounded, educated people.” Results from a 2008 ACA survey of graduates from 2003-2007 showed that 44% found their first career-related position in the first three months after graduation, and 65% were in a career-related position within a year.

Brandt encouraged students, saying, “The job market is not as bad as everyone says it is. People are looking for young, bright people to employ. Millions of people are finding jobs. … and I’ve spoken to more than one employer wanting to hire another Prin grad.”

Some Prin grads choose not to dive right into career-related employment, but rather take time to be with family and friends, or travel.  Brant said, “The first year out is the time [to do this] … A lot of people like to take a deep breath, maybe go to work in retail or temporary employment—if Mom lets you live in the basement!”  The joke echoes the recent national trend of graduates moving back home with their parents after graduation, which 80% of 2009-2010 graduates did last year, according to a report by CollegeGrad.com.

ACA continues to offer support to students after they’ve left Elsah. Brandt estimated that he spends about 20% of his time working with alumni. “We’ll work with alumni of any age, especially in the first five years after graduation,” he said. This is especially helpful to students who do other things before beginning a career.

Post-graduate internships are another option for recent grads. “Internships can be a great option for that in-between stage after college and before a long-term job,” said Linda Hannan, ACA’s Internship Coordinator. “Post-graduate internships in particular are a great opportunity to position yourself for a career.” Post-graduate internships are often paid training programs, lasting at the longest 18 months, and they may lead to subsequent employment with the company.

Currently, 63.1% of the responding 2003-2007 graduates are employed in career-related positions, 12.3% are employed in non-career related positions, 10% are full-time students, and less than 1% are unemployed and still looking. Brandt said that these results represent a typical year. ACA sends out surveys every year to alumni in the five most recent graduating classes.

Graduate school often features prominently in Prin grads’ futures. The proportion that eventually attends is usually around 60%, according to Brandt. Many Prin grads change their area of focus from their undergraduate major to their graduate study, and for this, their liberal arts education comes in very handy, Brandt said: “The long run matters, and the liberal arts background is desirable in many, many fields” to both universities and employers.

“If you want to succeed, Prin gives you the tools to succeed,” said senior Mass Communication major Ginny Tonkin. Some of the tools Tonkin cited are leadership opportunities and hands-on learning experiences, “like when I managed the radio station as a sophomore – cool!” Tonkin said, “At Prin, anyone can be a leader and get involved. You learn how to be well-organized and manage people, which are more important skills than the knowledge you learn in class.”

Some seniors do not yet have definite plans under their belts. Senior Biology major Luisa Gomez does not feel confident about finding a job after graduation: “I don’t feel like I’m in a good position to be employed. I know how to look for a job … but it looks like my qualifications aren’t the ones that are required in the job applications I’ve filled out.” Echoing many seniors she’s talked to, she said her future “feels up in the air, and I don’t like it feeling up in the air.”

Senior Music major Tabea Mangelsdorf, who is also uncertain about her future career path, said, “I’ll do whatever God tells me to do. I’ve got my antennas up!”

Correction: An earlier version of this article described the respondents of the survey as 2008 graduates.