Degree in hand, Rebecca Ryan is on the hunt for a job.
Last week, the Arizona State University graduate completed her studies in metal works. Though she has long-term aspirations to own her own jewelry studio, there's more pressing issues right now.
On Monday, her on-campus job ended. And though she's been looking for a job in customer service for months, this week she's stepping up her efforts.
"I've had a job until today," as a community assistant on campus, the 21-year-old said. "Now I'm looking in earnest."
Last week, nearly 11,000 students graduated from ASU's campuses, an all-time high. This week, some of those students are still completing online resumes and applications, attending career fairs and getting word out the best they can.
"Definitely I have concerns," Ryan said Monday. "I'm basically going to apply for 10 jobs a day until I get one."
Experts say Ryan and her fellow graduates may have better luck finding employment than graduates in recent years.
Job postings are increasing online. More employers are coming to campus to recruit. And employers say they'll hire 13.5 percent more graduates than last year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2011 Fall Preview. That number is even higher in the West, where employers say they'll hire 23.5 percent more graduates.
Numbers tell part of the story.
Last school year, 1,319 employers came to ASU to recruit, said Career Services director Elaine Stover. This year, that number jumped to 1,490. The number of job postings on ASU's Sun Devil CareerLink jumped 34 percent from April 2010 to April 2011.
Even participation in informal events has gone up. During the career mixer held Monday on the Tempe campus, Stover said she had to stop accepting employers because she'd run out of space. Sixty-five signed up for the event, with another 12 on the waiting list. Last year, there were 30 employers at the May event.
It will be a few months before her department computes all the surveys turned in from the May graduates regarding their post-college plans, but Stover points to last year's numbers as encouraging. Of the 15,000 graduates between the December 2009 graduation and the May 2010 graduation, less than half - 42 percent - were still looking for a job when they received their degrees.
"I'm guesstimating the number this year will be smaller. They had more opportunities to pursue this year," she said. "There are definitely opportunities. I don't want to paint it all rosy. They still have to have something to offer employers."
That "something" may be an internship, or an ability to show how completed class projects demonstrate the exact skills an employer may be looking for.
Recent grad Michael Brooks, 22, found it harder to get an internship than he anticipated - and the same holds true for employment. But he was encouraged Monday. With a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering technology, he was hopeful to have at least one job offer by the end of the week.
It's taken much longer than he thought it would.
His first concerns came in October 2008 - just as his sophomore year began. That's when the economy tanked. Then, despite his efforts, he didn't get an internship.
He's put out 70 to 80 resumes in the past few months and received several calls for interviews and second interviews.
"Back in the fall, I was assuming I would do really well (with the job search)," he said. With a high grade point average and a concentration in aeronautics, "I thought it would be easy to get out there. I wasn't foreseeing it taking so much time and coming down to the last minute."
Like Ryan, his on-campus job ends this week and he'll be unemployed. But what's helped him, he said, is an ability to show employers his skills and experiences from school.
That's key, ASU's Stover said. Graduates need to explain to an employer exactly how he or she is a good fit for the company. And that means doing homework. Applicants should research the companies, look at their websites and read trade publications.
"It's one way the employers can and do separate the candidates," she said.
Starting early also seems to be beneficial. Though recruiting is still going on and jobs open up year round, Stover said experience shows students who start job searching months before graduation are more likely to have jobs as the school year ends.
"But that doesn't mean to give up. It's never too late to start. Don't procrastinate any longer," she said.
Jason Fajardo of Mesa attended this week's career mixer and career clinic. The 2008 graduate is working at a hospital and an aviation company, but he's been trying to get into law enforcement since receiving his degree from ASU three years ago.
Because government spending has slowed down, he said, fewer cities are hiring. But he's not stopping.
He was at the career clinic to seek advice on his resume. With a degree in social work, he also used the time to talk to a human resources representative from the state.
"I'm trying a different route until the economy picks up," he said.