This is not a bad time to be finishing college. According to The Wall Street Journal, the National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that the job market for new grads is the best it’s been for years. Research from Michigan State University reinforces this, reporting a 15 percent in new grad hires. Further research also predicts starting wages will be better than they’ve been for the past few years.
All this is great news, and it means that graduates will have more choices when it comes to their first job. Here are some options, whether you want to stay stateside or go international.
1. Want a job in a growing economy?
Head to the Midwest, young person. Ziprecruiter put together a handy list of the country’s best job markets by city, based on unemployment levels and competition for open positions. First through third in the rankings are all in the Midwest: First place goes to Madison, Wisconsin, thanks to its low unemployment numbers and diverse economy; second goes to Des Moines, Iowa, due in part to a 3 percent unemployment rate and growing engineering and tech industries. Same for third place combo Omaha, Nebraska/Council Bluffs, Iowa. All three do well for cost of living, too.
2. Want to start a company or work for a startup?
Silicon Valley, of course, but unless you want to live in a box, you’ll also spend a lot of your take-home pay on housing costs, or have a hellish commute—and who has time for that when there’s a product to launch?
If that doesn’t appeal, investigate some of the other cities that offer a strong start-up scene and private and/or public support for entrepreneurs. Compass’s global 2015 survey on startup cities rate Tel Aviv, Chicago, Seattle, and Austin quite high. SmallBizTrends.com also recommends Boulder, Colorado; Nashville, Tennessee; and Asheville, North Carolina.
3. If the cost of living is a prime concern…
You’ve graduated! Welcome to student loan repayment time. The good news is that there are plenty of areas where hiring is strong and the cost of living reasonable. NerdWallet put together a list that factors in manageable housing costs. Minneapolis (number 5 on the list) offers the best housing prices, and living in Pittsburgh or Atlanta could also mean less of your take-home goes to keeping a roof over your head.
4. Looking for high happiness rankings?
Head south — to Naples, Florida, specifically, which took first place in the Gallup-Healthways State of American well-being ranking. Naples-ites report high life satisfaction, less depression and stress, and a healthy lifestyle.
5. If culture is important…
The World Cities Culture Forum Report breaks it down on a global scale, from which cities have the most international students to the most cinema screens. Some quick facts: The population of Toronto, Ontario, is 49 percent foreign-born; Buenos Aires has 287 theaters (outpacing London’s 241); and Tokyo has 1,144 restaurants per 100,000 people.
6. Want to work in finance or tech but also have a life?
If you’re aiming for a finance or tech job but like exposure to natural light at least once a day, New York City and Silicon Valley might not be for you. But here’s an option: Salt Lake City. Major finance companies have set up shop here, the cost of housing is lower, and there’s a strong outdoor culture, says Men’s Journal.
7. If you’re looking for a change or adventure…
Consider leaving the country. It might be good for future job prospects: The challenge and skill-building opportunities can win over employers when you get back, especially as so many careers are becoming more global. Just do your research first. There are startups that can help you with that, like Teleport, which generates a list of international cities based on factors like salaries, safety, and who’s hiring, with a bent towards tech workers.
8. Is social progress a priority?
Move to Norway or Sweden. According to a 2015 report measuring general well-being, opportunity, and availability of “basic human needs” by the Global Progress Imperative, a U.S.-based nonprofit, those two countries rank first and second place overall. (The U.S. ranks sixteenth.)
Want more insight on the hiring scene for new grads? See Hiring Millennials: My Insider Tips On What Works.