RIDING ON THE BACK of a continuing resurgence of Hong Kong's economy and a general upswing in the global business environment, the employment situation for graduates from the class of 2005 looks more promising than it has in recent years. Most recruitment professionals agree that the Hong Kong job market will improve this year. The improved job outlook includes opportunities for fresh graduates. According to the Hong Kong Joint Institutions Job Information System, there are five sectors that offer fresh graduates the most promising opportunities for getting a foot in the door. These are marketing and sales; engineering; administration and management; systems analysis and computer programming; and accounting, auditing, taxation and secretarial work. In addition, the health-care, pharmaceutical, logistics, tourism and manufacturing sectors are hiring fresh graduates. Still, graduates with bold ambitions may have to modify their aspirations because many employers are still hiring prudently. While the number of graduates entering the job market every year stays steady at about 30,000, the competition for prime jobs is intensifying as employers seek the best graduates to fill the vacancies. The careers advisory department at the University of Hong Kong advises graduates who are unable to secure the job of their choice to look out for other types of employment opportunities in order to gain valuable work experience. Careers centres say a positive attitude and a flexible approach, in addition to proficiency in Putonghua and English, can give job seekers an edge. Alan Au, associate professor at the Open University of Hong Kong's marketing and international business department, said the improved economy had created new job opportunities. 'Companies are realising that the lean recruitment drives of previous years will not support future growth, so they are prepared to hire fresh graduates and give them training,' Dr Au said. This is especially noticeable in the accounting, logistics and finance sectors. He said companies in these sectors were prepared to hire graduates because they were generally technically up to date, flexible and relatively inexpensive. The same sectors were also recruiting sales and marketing, merchandising and general administrative staff. A recent graduate employment survey conducted by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University's Student Affairs Office revealed that 81.7 per cent of PolyU graduates were offered jobs within three months of graduating. Among these, nursing graduates were all employed and received an average monthly salary of $20,366. The average salary for the hospitality/tourism sector is about $10,276 per month, while the average monthly salary of first-degree graduates is $9,644. Among the various employment sectors, community and social services absorbed the largest number of graduates (19.2 per cent). This sector also offered the highest average monthly salary ($12,259). Sales and marketing absorbed 16.7 per cent of graduates. The Lingnan University Students Affairs Centre has noted a significant rise in employment opportunities offered by business services (especially certified public accounting firms), insurance companies, banks and financial institutions. Students Affairs Centre spokeswoman Mabel Mak said the recovering economy was creating employment opportunities related to sales and marketing, retail operations, customer services, financial planning and merchandising. Many of the merchandising posts require travel to the mainland. Increasingly, graduates are expanding their employment horizons and looking for job opportunities on the mainland. A survey conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that 3.4 per cent of its first-degree graduates worked on the mainland. A further 26.6 per cent regularly travelled to the mainland for business. These figures are up sharply from the previous year, when 2 per cent of graduates were working on the mainland and 20 per cent were travelling there regularly for business. Tom Fong, head of Chinese University's career planning and development centre, said fresh graduates generally preferred not to be stationed on the mainland, but many were willing to travel there for business. This reflected a more open and flexible attitude among graduates intent on developing their careers, he said. 'Graduates should take a proactive stance and realise they have to make things happen, instead of waiting for things to happen,' Mr Fong said. 'This can mean drawing up a list of prospective employers they feel comfortable working with, doing research on the industries they wish to enter, and sending in targeted applications.' The global nature of the business environment could also prompt graduates to consider moving to the mainland, or overseas. A Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce survey found that more than half of Hong Kong-invested enterprises on the mainland showed a preference for hiring Hong Kong talent - even if it meant paying more in wages. The Graduate Employment Training Scheme, operated by the Labour Department and local universities, helps fresh university graduates to secure employment. The programme looks for ways to give participants work experience to enhance their career prospects.