May 12, 2007 -- "Honor your calling, do what you are supposed to do…and when you walk this path of privilege, don't forget the less privileged you leave behind."
Talk show host and American icon Oprah Winfrey gave these blunt words of advice to 30,000 graduates and their families at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Saturday.
Winfrey accepted an honorary doctorate of humanities and told her fellow graduates, "there is no such thing as failure. What other people label or might try to call failure, I have learned is just God's way of pointing you in a new direction."
Across the country, students are donning flat caps and gowns as they prepare to leave behind the campus library and strike out on their own. Luckily for the collective class of 2007, there is some good news on the job front.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, or NACE, employers plan to hire nearly 20 percent more graduates this year than they did last year.
Matt Settle just graduated from New York University's business school and he's had his first post-college job lined up for months.
"I've had a job since November," he said, adding that most of his friends have their post-graduation plans sorted out. He is going into consulting, and said that his liberal arts friends are also faring well with plans for law school and the non-profit organization Teach for America.
Settle is among the more than half of job-seeking graduates who had accepted a job offer by early May.
"Our survey shows that among those who have applied for jobs, 81.1 percent have received at least one offer of employment," explained Marilyn Mackes, the NACE executive director.
New grads can not only expect more job offers, but more lucrative potential salaries. Average starting pay is up for almost all majors, the biggest beneficiary being marketing students. In that industry, the average starting salary jumped 10.3 percent this year to $41,285, according to NACE.
Despite the improving job prospects, more than one in five graduates will be heading back to the classroom, opting to forgo the 40-plus hour work week to stay in school for post-graduate academic work.
For those who are still looking, the job hunt may seem daunting. Winfrey offered words of encouragement.
"Focus on how significant you can be in service," she said, "and the success will take care of itself."