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Class of '09 Hiring: Perseverance Pays

February 16, 2009 11:15 AM

As college seniors prepare to enter one of the toughest jobs markets in years, there’s plenty of fear and trepidation -- to be expected, given the economy. But when Women For Hire asked campus career officers to assess the hiring and recruiting outlook this spring, we found plenty of optimism and good tips for the Class of ’09. “Seniors need to be more resourceful and creative than ever,” says Richard White, director of career services at Rutgers University. “Networking is always important, but especially this year.”

The Class of 2009 “shouldn't go into their job search with a defeatist attitude,” says Rob Brooks, director of career services at Mount Ida College in Newton, Mass. They need to be resilient “if the search takes longer than they expected.”

“I'm emphasizing that even in a poor market there are jobs out there for them,” Rob says. “They may need to work harder to find them and there might be more competition, but they will be successful if they put the maximum effort into their search. The largest factor in the success or failure of any job search is effort, not economy.”

“Students need to take a much more proactive approach to finding employment,” says James C. Gonyea, a career development specialist at St. Petersburg (Fla.) College. He says that students should research a company -- then craft a letter that shows how they could be of value there. “Simply spreading one's resume to the wind, responding only to posted job announcements, is a worthless venture for most job hunters.”

Heather Gariepy, director of career services at Fisher College in Boston, says that December grads have been struggling and prospects for May grads are slim. “There are not as many postings as usual, and when I go to our employers I am often greeted with the ‘hiring freeze’ phrase.”

“I have had a lot of students in my office recently; and not just seniors,” Heather says. “So many students are terrified that they have had their hours cut dramatically from their part-time jobs. They are definitely feeling the pinch. Students who are thinking about leaving their jobs I have told to hold on tight. There is not a lot out there and I want them to keep any income they have coming in while we try and look for something else in the meantime.”

But Jacqueline Lambiase, an associate professor at University of North Texas, has been reminding students “that when I graduated from college in 1984 as an undergrad, the jobless rate was higher than it is now, and had been high for some time. In the middle 1980s, we had the expectation it would take several months to scout out job ads, work our network, and land interviews.”

When layoff mania slows down, Jacqueline predicts new jobs will emerge. “Organizations will begin to assess whether their trimmed-down workforce is meeting expectations, and when need is identified, then hiring will begin. Students and grads who have expanded and worked their networks will be ready.”

“There is no room for errors,” says Rebecca Leyson, a of Goldey-Beacon College career services in Wilmington, Del. “Rookies are now competing with individuals with 15 years of experience for those ‘entry level’ jobs with companies they may never have heard of before. It is tough, a lot of work and requires passion and tenacity.”

Pace University in New York has seen a sharp drop on on-campus recruiting among hard-hit financial services firms, says alumni services manager Barry Miller. In light of that he’s advising students to “consider jobs in non-profit, government and healthcare. Consider working for smaller organizations.”

But at Temple’s Fox School of Business in Philadelphia, “we have only seen a very small decrease (about 5%) in companies posting jobs on campus,” says Corinne Snell, executive director of the Center for Student Professional Development.

The school’s corporate partners “realize the importance of maintaining relationships,” Corinne says. “College recruitment programs are typically a way to build bench strength and tie into succession planning. Many employers are still posting jobs, conducting on-campus interviews and participating in our upcoming spring recruiting/networking event – although they do anticipate extending fewer offers this year.”

At Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, career services executive director Lisa Kollar reminds students that recent years have been “exceptionally good” but that now it could take up to a year to get a job.

“You may need to turn the wrench before you move into management of aircraft mechanics,” Lisa says. “In times like this, we are all reminded that we need to work harder, be patient, evaluate credentials, learn new skills and take advantage of all experiences that contribute to your career.”

At Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif. Career services director Judy Fisher held a workshop recently for students called Finding Work in Challenging Times.

“I told them to use the same methods we usually advise students to use, but realize that the results will take much longer,” Judy says. “They need to have a back up plan for where they are going to live after leaving campus in May.”

At Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., career counselor Julie Slepner tells students to “go through who they know when they're looking for jobs. It's nothing different from before, just more important now more than ever. I also stress doing an
internship, because interns often get hired as full time upon graduation.”

Offering to work on a project at a company rather than seek full-time work can sometimes lead to a fulltime position, especially in IT and accounting jobs, says Lydia J. Williams, associate director of counseling at Georgia Perimeter College in Clarkston, Ga. “Taking on a temporary position provides a new grad with valued work experience. The employer gets the work completed without having to hire someone permanently, with benefits.”

Don’t underestimate the role that faculty members can play in getting you access to prospective employers, says Jim Bexley, Smith-Hutson endowed chair of banking at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. “Start early on the job search.”

Comments (1)

As companies downsize, their need for flexible staff increases -- the people who are left need to cover a wider variety of jobs. That is one place that recent grads shine, both in energy and willingness to learn. If everyone is relearning how to keep the company working, lack of experience is less of a barrier.

Longer job searches require better tools for organizing your search. Our company offers PerfectJob, an organizer for for job search. Try the online version for free at www.PerfectJobSoftware.net.

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