Job market rough for college grads

Senior Meaghan Elicks, a double theatre and English major, said that she is still contemplating the best move to make after she graduates in May.

"This is a hard decision to make because it seems as though many employers would prefer a few years of work experience," Elicks said. "But, I can't get that experience unless I have a Master's to help me land that position without the relevant experience. It's a catch-22. Not to mention, the job market is worse than ever before, so I'm not sure which route is better."

Elicks and thousands of other college graduates are facing some of the bleakest employment prospects in decades. According to data recently published by Michigan State University Collegiate Employment Research Institute's latest Recruiting Trends survey, the job market for college graduates has fallen approximately 40 percent over the past year.

The 40 percent figure is significantly higher than initial estimates made last year, which generally ranged from 8 to 10 percent.

"I have seen bad job markets in my many years, and we have recovered from all of them," said Jerry Wrubel, director of Career Services. "However, I haven't seen one quite as bad as this one in a while. But I'm confident we will recover."

According to Wrubel, graduating seniors looking to improve their job search should be focusing on defining where they would like to work, their goals and interests and what they can bring to an organization.

"Many students like to short-circuit the process and simply apply to tons of postings from Monster.com, but this isn't necessarily the best approach," Wrubel explained. "You need to take a more assertive, not passive approach. Networking, for example, has proven to enhancing your chances for success. Contacting individual companies also works well."

This year's graduates are faced with a national unemployment rate of 10.2 percent, up from 6.8 percent last November.

Wrubel cautions against attending graduate school solely to avoid facing the job market.

"Hiding in graduate school is definitely not a good choice," Wrubel said. "You need to have good reasons and a clear picture of what you will accomplish by attending."

Elicks noted, however, that students occasionally decide upon new career paths toward the end of their college careers, which can make landing a job in that field even harder.

"I have a friend who is a theatre major who recently decided to go into law. But she's having a hard time even landing an internship because she doesn't have any experience in that field as she was very involved in the theatre her entire undergraduate experience," Elicks said. "So, now she feels as though going to law school right away is her only option."

Wrubel also said that younger students should be preparing throughout the college process for their senior year.

"The years prior to senior year are full of golden opportunities to develop and refine your career goals and gain valuable experience for when you finally are seeking a position," Wrubel said.

"I've applied to a few graduate programs already," Elicks said. "But, in the meantime, I'm keeping my options open. There are tons of opportunities out there, you just have to know where and how to find them."

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