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College grads need to go above and beyond

October 15th, 2009
With 263,000 jobs cut in September and the unemployment rate hovering at 9.8 percent, the prospects of finding a job after graduation proves to be a sobering prospect for the class of 2010. The economy is slowly starting to show signs of life, but employers are squeezing the most they can out of their current employees. They are refusing to hire back some workers, to protect themselves in case the economy takes a turn for the worse.

A recent study released by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that U.S. employers plan to hire seven percent fewer 2010 college graduates than they did from the previous year’s graduating class. NACE executive director, Marilyn Mackes, suggested that “Traditionally, employers tend to be conservative about their college hiring when the economy is in flux.”

Another sobering statistic from the study: “Less than 20 percent of 2009 grads who have applied for a job actually have one in hand.” In comparison, 50 percent of graduates from the class of 2007 had jobs by the time of graduation. Surprisingly, in a time when soon-to-be graduates should be searching more diligently for a job, the data suggests that only 59 percent of this year’s graduating class have started looking for work, compared to the class of 2007, where two-thirds were looking for a job at this time.

Searching for jobs using Craigslist, monster.com, and yes, even the career center, simply won’t cut it anymore. It will take more initiative on the student’s part and possibly some trade down. With fewer jobs available, more students have opted for heading straight into graduate school, while others are looking for internships after graduation, rather than a full-time position. The latter, though unpaid at times, can be a good way for recent graduates to get their foot in the door at a company. Students might even consider public service positions, such as the Peace Corps, to further boost their resumes.

Indeed, many students have the right to be frustrated and scared about what the future may hold in the near future, especially at such a turning point in our lives. Advisers can do little more than offer support and hope. Some, like Trina Thompson from New York’s Monroe College, have taken matters into their own hands – she is suing her college for $72,000, the full cost of her tuition, because she cannot find a job. While certainly ambitious, I don’t offer that as advice. Rather, focus on networking and being aggressive when it comes to the job search.