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Abby Knapke flipped through a stack of note cards about three inches thick.
Bathed in sunlight while sitting at a table outside the University of Toledo Student Union, Ms. Knapke was preparing for the biggest test of her life. The 22-year-old recreational therapy major was gearing up to take the certification exam to become a therapist.
Although graduation was Saturday, Ms. Knapke said she's not sweating the job search that lies ahead. Her energy was focused on overcoming the last hurdles she faced as a student. The rest should fall into place, she said hopefully.
"It's a waiting game, really," Ms. Knapke said of finding a job.
Ms. Knapke -- like the scores of other graduates entering the health-care field this year -- has a good chance of landing the all-important first job. Career consultants at local colleges and universities agree that it's becoming easier to nail down a job, and some fields are improving more quickly than others. The economy, although still tumultuous, isn't as bad as it was a few years ago.
Health care and business are two areas that are booming, the consultants said. Other fields, such as manufacturing, are adding jobs more slowly, they agreed.
"It is improving in northwest Ohio, but not as fast as we'd like it to," said Beth Nicholson, director of career services at the University of Toledo. "Those folks who are in the high-demand technical areas, such as health care, certainly have the best chance of locating something sooner."
A study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that employers plan to hire 10.2 percent more college graduates than they did in 2011.
The study also found that the number of jobs posted is dramatically up from 2010, when employers posted an average of 45 jobs. This year, an average of 116 jobs are being posted by survey respondents.
Although things are looking up, graduates still need to be cautious, said Michael Carroll, director for the Center for Regional Development at Bowling Green State University.
There are still concerns.
"The overall sluggishness of the economy would be the big one," he said. "Are we going to turn down now that Europe has turned down? If I were in the market, I would be very careful of which industry I was going into."
Picking a field that's growing and adding jobs is key, Mr. Carroll said. Graduates should keep an eye on where they're most likely to find job security, he said.
"We have turned the corner from the recession and we are growing again," he said. "This is probably the best it's looked in the past five years."
According to March, 2012, report from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, sectors with the most job postings in the Toledo area include sales and related occupations; transportation and material moving occupations; health-care practitioners and technical occupations; office and administrative occupations, and production occupations.
Nancy Sheets, assistant director of Career Services at Owens Community College, said job postings in the college's career database rose 27 percent this year, and more than 90 employers came to a recent job fair, making it one of the largest in Owens' history.
"I suppose there's always that little bit of nervousness about seeking that first career position," she said. "I always tell students the best job-search strategy is with networking."
Getting in touch with employed alumni and utilizing social networks like LinkedIn are great ways to find jobs, Ms. Sheets said.
Laying the foundation for a career before graduation is essential, said Janet Dickson, director of career services at Lourdes University in Sylvania. A diploma doesn't always equate a job, she said.
"The key to successful employment for a post-college graduate is internships," she said. "You cannot be without an off-campus experience for your success. Absolutely, you cannot be without that."
Even with a diploma and an internship or two, graduates need to articulate their skills and abilities to prospective employers. If they can't do that, the search is going to be infinitely harder, Ms. Nicholson said.
"It's really a matter of, 'Can I market myself?' To do that, you have to know yourself," she said. "The education certainly prepares them to be out in the job market, it gives them self assurance and that knowledge base, and it gives them a better understanding of their skills."
Contact Kris Turner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6103.