April 6, 2010
With joblessness rates high, it comes as no surprise that college seniors are bracing for difficult job searches when they graduate this spring. But some students are ahead of the game, having already secured full-time positions that will begin just as the ink on their diplomas is drying.
Their advice? Start the hunt early, be persistent, and network.
Ashley Pinkham, a senior at Plymouth State University (PSU) in New Hampshire, is a good example. According to Foster's Daily Democrat, the day after she graduates she will begin working at the National Estuarine Research Reserve in Wells, Maine. She loves the environmental field, and says that it was her tenacity that got her the job.
One of her advisors, associate director of the PSU office that offers career services to students and alumni Ruth DeCotis, comments on Ashley's success saying, "She started early, researched companies, talked to professors and networked."
While he didn't hear DeCotis' advice, Bob Tutag, a senior at Michigan State University (MSU), started his job search in October. The result, reports the Wall Street Journal, was that he was offered, and has accepted, a job at a commercial real-estate firm in Beachwood, Ohio.
Like Ashley, he can count himself as one of the lucky grads this year. And, this is especially true because he found a job in the private sector at a time when most businesses have reduced their hiring. According to employment specialists, when companies have jobs to offer, they shy away from recent college graduates because they usually need to be trained. If they are looking for fresh talent, they tend to hire former interns.
Phil Gardner, director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at MSU, writes an annual report forecasting college graduate hiring trends. This year's report predicts that hiring will be close to last year's figure, which decreased 35-40%. "The economy has hit bottom, and right now we're drifting along that bottom," he says.
In response, career counselors at universities across the country offer additional advice for graduating students. Nancy Hoff, at the University of New Hampshire Career Center, recommends developing plans B, C and D. "It may take a while longer than expected to find (the) "perfect" job so securing work that can help (one) pay the bills while continuing to look is a good idea," Hoff says. She also supports postgraduate internships, even if they pay little or nothing, because they provide students with experience in their field and give them contacts and opportunities for permanent employment.
DeCotis says that proactive job searches are better than reactive ones, and suggests that students research either the type of jobs they're interested in or the job opportunities available where they want to live. In the northeast, where hiring is expected to rise, health care, social services, government, and sciences and technology are the fields to be in.
Other regions of positive hiring activity are south central U.S. and the northwest, with many of the same industries leading the way. Education and hospitality, on the other hand, are professions which currently offer little for job aspirants.
The alternative for college grads unable to find work is to go on to graduate school. But career specialists say that that's only a good strategy if the student knows what he/she wants to study and is reasonably sure it will better position him/her for getting a job in the future.
Compiled by Abigail Rome