Job outlook bleak for this year’s college grads

Christie Coombs

For six months, two hours a day, five days a week, Matt Ross studied for the chartered financial analyst exam while working in the summer and continuing as a full-time senior at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I.

After taking the test last December, he learned that he was the first student in Bryant’s history to pass the first of the three-part test before graduating.

Five years ago, passing the test would have guaranteed him four or five job offers.

This year, he’s hoping for one.

“The outlook for those of us graduating in May is pretty bad,” said Ross, an Abington native. “Companies are hiring, but they might only be hiring one employee rather than five to 10 as they would have in the past.”

Employers expect to hire 22 percent fewer new college graduates than they did a year ago, a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers finds.

More than 46 percent of employers surveyed were unsure about their hiring plans for fall and 17 percent said they expect to further reduce college hiring in the future.

Even well-qualified applicants like Ross will have to work harder to get that first post-graduate position.

Ross said he is approaching the task of finding a job with the same intensity as preparing for the financial test.

“I wake up every day early, as if I had a job, and work on building my network,” said the 3.65 GPA honor student. “I’m applying to a lot of different types of companies, even though the financial field in New York or Boston is where I really want to be. I have a lot of friends in the financial industry, and none of the firms are hiring.”

Judi Claire, director of Bryant’s Amica Center for Career Education, said the job market for college graduates is the worst she’s seen in 20 years.

“Companies are cutting back. College recruiting by companies is way off. ... It doesn’t mean there are no opportunities, it just means students have to be more aggressive and we have to be more creative in how we uncover opportunities,” she said.

Len Konarski, director of career services and internships at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, said it may have taken three to four months for a new college graduate to find a job last year.

“Now, it’s probably six to nine months,” he said. “We noticed that candidates looking for positions, either alumni or current students, have more anxiety about the job search and larger numbers of people are coming in for support.”

Ross, who belongs to Tau Kappa Epsilon, follows sports and plays intramural sports, said had he known about the economic downturn four years ago, he would still have chosen to study finance.

“The economy is going to rebound, and attrition within the industry will open up opportunities. I’m just going to have to work harder this summer to find a job if I haven’t by then.”

Career counselors say college graduates shouldn’t give up.

“It’s easy to take the defeatist attitude. Well, that’s not the way to look at it,” Konarski said.

Ross’ professor David Louton said that even in a poor economy, passing the first part of the chartered financial analyst exam still gives Ross an advantage.

“He’ll definitely land something better with this on his resume,” he said.

Staff reporter Gal Tziperman Lotan contributed to this story.

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TOP 10 TIPS FOR NEW GRADUATES

1. Intern: Even if the pay isn’t great, internships offer valuable on-the-job training.

2. Have a plan: Don’t start looking for a job the day before you graduate. Send feelers out early, and often, and have a realistic sense of what you want to do.

3. Network: Even if it’s informally, connect with employers while in school. Get their contact info, and reach out when you need to.

4. Go (back) to school: Getting a graduate degree can better improve your long-term job prospects, and starting salary.

5. Lead the way: Being a leader – whether it’s a sports team or other student organization – can look good to employers, and impart valuable lessons.

6. Be open: Flexibility is key and can open more doors, if you’re willing to relocate or try something new.

7. Work the fairs: Attend career fairs to talk to a lot of potential employers in a short time.

8. Follow your heart: Younger people often can take more chances – including doing something because you like it, not just for the biggest paycheck.

9. Proper paperwork: A resume and cover letter serve as your “first impression” to many would-be employers. Work on getting both in tip-top shape.

10. Have back-up: Have professors, or perhaps previous employers, write letters of recommendation. Also, keep phone numbers and e-mail addresses of people who can serve as references.

Source:CampusGrotto.com