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Business Grads Adjusting Their Careers

By CityTownInfo.com Staff

April 20, 2009

Facing an exceptionally bleak job market, business graduates are now seeking employment in a wide range of sectors they never considered before.

The New York Times reports that seniors at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business who had planned on working in finance are now looking elsewhere for employment: One student is investigating becoming a wine importer, another is considering jazz club ownership, and a third even contemplated enrolling in rabbinical school.

"A lot of my peers, we're exploring things that we used to not even think of as an option," noted Jessica Levy, a senior at Wharton, who abandoned her plans to work in banking and is now pursuing employment at the State Department. Because of the financial crisis, she said, "there was suddenly permission to pursue something you were interested in that your parents three years ago would have said absolutely no to."

Business graduates are responding to a nationwide decline in available jobs in the financial sector. The Times notes that Wharton's on-campus interviews dropped 20 percent last year, and Harvard Business School reported a 40 percent drop in financial job postings last year.

"The number of firms coming to campus was relatively the same," explained Jana Kierstead, director of MBA career services at Harvard, "but the number of positions they're recruiting for has been reduced."

Virginia's Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that graduates are being forced to adapt to a very different job market than they anticipated. Grant Garcia, an MBA student at the University of Richmond who writes a block on businessweek.com about his job hunt, noted that instead of focusing on New York, he is now investigating positions at regional banks and boutique financial firms.

College career counselors are also making adjustments. Mark Eisenman, director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Business and Engineering Career Center, said that he is spending more time working with small business hiring one or two employees instead of large companies who used to hire hundreds.

In a related story, The Virginian-Pilot reports that graduates are increasingly considering government jobs. Officials at Norfolk State University noted that many federal government agencies have been actively recruiting, including the Census Bureau, the Central Intelligence Agency, the General Services Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

"You have a group of students from U. Va. that had their hearts set on a consulting career or an investment banking career, and now they're looking seriously at government agencies," said Ladd Flock, director of career services for the University of Virginia's College of Arts and Sciences. "It's a place to develop their skills and abilities, get interesting experience and parlay that back into consulting or banking once the fog clears."

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