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College graduates’ job market woes

After four years in cozy dorms, welcoming classrooms and bustling dining halls, college students face the harsh challenges of entering the professional world ‘-‘- moving out, paying back loans and graduate school expenses ‘-‘- all within a failing economy.

Some students look for employment in their chosen fields, but a recent survey has shown others may just want a job that helps pay the bills, pay back loans and start an independent life. But students who graduate from schools that provide better internship opportunities or co-ops are better prepared to enter the job market and find jobs more easily, experts say.

‘It will be a tougher year for graduating seniors than before,’ Maria Stein, director of Career Services at Northeastern University, said. ‘There is so much more instability because of the economy.’

BU’s STRATEGY

Boston University Career Services has not seen the expected drop in job recruitment, Assistant Director Deborah Halliday said.

‘Logic would suggest that [hiring] will drop, but it hasn’t yet, so we will see,’ she said.

BU greets its students with a wide variety of internship opportunities through the career services office and study abroad internship programs. These opportunities allow students to obtain first-hand experience in their projected field and also to make connections for a possible job post graduation.

Kris Seto, who graduated from the College of Communication in 2007, took advantage of connections he made as an undergraduate. Seto moved to New York City without a job after he finished school, and before the end of his first week in New York he was working at his former internship office.

Seto, who worked in the COM Student Services office, came across the internship offer from a BU alumnus who started the company Createthe Group, an interactive technology marketing firm. Createthe currently employs five BU alumni.

‘One of the most valuable things about BU is the networking opportunities,’ Seto said. ‘Career Services has a lot of connections.’

RELOCATION, RENT AND

ROOMMATES

Finding a job is not the only challenge in moving to a new city. Graduates usually want to find a roommate. Christine Casagrande, a COM ’07 alumna, has set up a private Google group for BU film and television alumni who are moving to Los Angeles. The group of approximately 150 graduates posts roommate listings, as well as job connections, opportunities and advice to new members.

‘It is difficult to be this far from home,’ Casagrande said. ‘It’s all about networking and having internships and keeping in touch with whoever gave you that internship, because that is so vital to getting your first job.’

Many students cannot afford to go to Los Angeles or New York right after graduation to pursue jobs and have to settle for a city that is more financially accommodating, Halliday said. BU Career Services helps students make more realistic life choices, such as moving home for a year, living with a roommate and taking time to financially regroup before applying to graduate school.

‘Not everyone can get the job they want in the city that they want,’ Halliday said. ‘We encourage people to go after what they want but also to be flexible and have a plan B. We don’t want people to get somewhere and have it not work out.’

BREAKING THE BANK FOR A DREAM

BU and Northeastern Career Services both do not encourage students to take jobs that stray far from their desired field simply because of a good salary.

‘As a rule, salary is a bad way to choose a career,’ Stein said. ‘You should do something you are happy doing. As you build up your career, the more money you will make. Yeah, you have debt, but it is the time in your life when it is OK to have debt and a lower paying job.’

Most students know how much they need to make to pay back loans, rent and basic needs. They base their requested salary in their chosen field on that amount, rather than wanting to make as much profit as possible, Halliday said.

A recent survey by Experience.com suggests this logical advice is not always reflected in practice. The survey shows half of the 336 students polled said that they would take a job with lower career satisfaction if it would help them pay back loans more easily.

‘I think that, over all in this down economy, it is putting students who need financial assistance in a tough spot to have to make tough decisions,’ Mark Kaeffer, a Talent Insights blogger for Experience.com, said.

‘When you have a loan you need to pay them down. I am seeing more and more students in liberal arts backgrounds taking jobs in accounting or finance, but those jobs are going down now, too.’

Technology and industry jobs are hiring the most, while bank jobs are taking the biggest hit, Kaeffer said.

The survey shows more students are looking for alternate ways to save money after graduation. After applying for scholarships and working, students are moving home to live with their parents. Many people do this to get back on their feet or simply because they miss home after four years of college, Halliday said.

However, Casagrande, a New Jersey native, found that while her BU friends were eager to do whatever they needed to move out of their houses and live independently, most of her friends from home still live in the Garden State.

‘I did what I had to do to move. There was a dicey, two-month period where all of the money I had saved up was quickly running out, but I got a job easily and was back on my feet,’ Casagrande said. ‘All of my friends who live at home are making 40 K and pocketing it all.’

IS GRAD SCHOOL THE SOLUTION?

The Experience.com survey found that 61 percent of students said they would take a job that helps them pay back their loans over a job that wouldn’t. Amanda Nohavec, a BU School of Education senior, said she hopes to work in an urban district after graduation because that school district will help pay for loans and graduate school. She must attend graduate school because teachers are required to get their master’s degree.

In the Experience.com survey, 68 percent of students said they would not let student loans deter them from entering graduate school. Jolanta Komornicka, a BU graduate student in the history department, said graduate school is a necessity for her career in academia.

‘Academia is something of a safe route in careers,’ Komornicka said.

She said she took a financial leap when she moved from Portland, Ore., to Boston, where the cost of living is twice as high, for the graduate program and career opportunity.

Halliday said BU Career Services encourages students to take time off between undergraduate education and graduate school to experience the field and earn some financial stability.

Students see graduate school as a necessity, but the education value of graduate school is equivalent to three years of job experience, she said. Graduate schools also are more likely to accept applicants with experience.

‘Graduate school is expensive. It is a commitment and it specializes you. You can’t know how you want to focus your study until you experience that field for two or three years and find the right program for you,’ Halliday said.

In all, the financial future will impact the decisions for college graduates, but those who are happy will stay in their chosen fields, Stein, of Northeastern, said.

‘The good thing about being a college senior is that you are the new kid on the block,’ Stein said. ‘You are a cheaper hire than a person with three or four years experience in the eyes of employers.’

2 Comments

  1. Yeah I just graduated with a degree in engineering (typically not too hard to get a job with, or at least get into interviews), with about 2 years of internships at big companies like General Electric and Parker Hannifin, and a good GPA. I have applied to almost 80 different jobs nationwide within just the last 2 months and I cant even get an interview. Some even with personal recommendations from the chair of the engineering department.<p/>Its tough too cuz when you have a degree its even hard to get a crappy part time job at a retail store cuz you are “over qualified”. They figure your just gonna quit as soon as a real job comes your way (sure they’re right but still. I mean 25/hr vs 7/hr). Had I have known this would happen I would of just stayed for my master’s. Now I can’t pay my credit card bills, cell bill or anything. Yeah Ill get a job eventually, but I wont be able to get a house or car as my credit score plumits and late fees add up. I guess at least I get to add to the ailing economy.

  2. It is very difficult for recent college grads to find a job out there! hopefully those suggestions will help.