New graduates facing tough, but improved, job market
Star-Telegram – Business
BY SCOTT NISHIMURA
Posted Friday, May. 18, 2012
Newly minted college graduates are facing a better job market than last year, though it’s still tough, with more jobs available but more applicants as well.
More employers have been appearing on college campuses this year, but they remain picky about whom they hire, economists and the schools say.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported in its spring hiring outlook that employers nationwide expect to hire 10.2 percent more college graduates from this year’s class, slightly higher than the 9.5 percent increase projected in the fall. The numbers were stronger in the association’s Southeast region, which includes Texas, than any other area except the West.
“I believe the unemployment rate and the employment outlook have improved from the last few years,” said Cheryl Abbot, regional economist for the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics in Dallas.
The U.S. jobless rate for people ages 16-24 with a bachelor’s degree actually rose to 7.4 percent in April, from 6.9 percent a year earlier, but was still down from 8 percent in April 2010.
The uptick may be an aberration, Abbot said. The data are not adjusted for seasonal fluctuations. And for students who just graduated, “all of them are beginning to look for work. So that’s going to make their unemployment rate go up.”
Fresh college grads likely face competition from job seekers with college degrees who are just a few years older.
The colleges and employers group doesn’t track those statistics, but “there’s probably graduates [from a year or two ago] who are still out there looking for jobs,” said Andrea Koncz, employment information manager.
With no “gangbuster expansion” in play, Abbot said, “employers appear to be picking and choosing who they hire.”
“As far as the college grads, there’s one story that never changes,” she said. “If you’ve got the technical skills that employers are looking for, you will get a job when you graduate. If you don’t have specific skills when you graduate, then employers can look around at three or four graduates. And, of course, it always plays a role in the wage you’ll be offered.”
At the University of Texas at Arlington, the largest graduating class in history — 4,400 students, 700 more than last May — crossed the stage last weekend.
“Students are getting jobs,” said Cheri Butler, UTA’s associate director of career services.
Hiring and internship offers are up, she said. “I even know somebody who got a job as a teacher,” she said.
Healthcare employment is typically strong, and the federal government is hiring to replace retiring baby boomers, she said. “They’re hiring new people, for a lot less money,” she said.
Butler and other career advisers counsel students to aggressively expand and use their networks to find jobs, rather than just sitting in front of computers and firing their résumés into cyberspace. The latter strategy is “about as effective as nailing a résumé to a tree,” Butler said, adding that graduates who waited until they got their diplomas to begin job-hunting could be waiting awhile.
Lori Dunham, 43, who earned her Bachelor of Business Administration from UTA a week ago, started her new job Monday. She is a permit coordinator for a cable TV company, working with cities, contractors and utilities on expansion of the company’s network.
She spotted the opportunity in February, was contacted by the company in March, landed the first interview in April and — after nurturing the opportunity with follow-up notes and e-mails — got the offer a week and a half ago.
“It’s definitely an employer’s market,” said Dunham, who had a high school diploma and returned to school after switching careers from IT support.
“The quality of work they’re getting from me is considerably higher than the wage I’m getting,” she said. “But it’s an opportunity to get my foot in the door. There’s lots of [potential for] advancement, and the benefits are outstanding.”
Veronica Rendon, 24, who just earned a master’s degree from UTA’s educational leadership and policy studies program, landed a job at UT Dallas. Rendon, who started Wednesday, is a coordinator for new student programs, helping plan orientations.
Rendon did four internships while in the master’s program. She limited her job search to North Texas because her fiance has a job in aerospace engineering here. She says she found plenty of opportunities, applying for about 20 jobs after starting her search in earnest in January.
The competition was stiff: She landed interviews on four jobs and scored the one offer. Rendon said she tried to negotiate salary, “but they were pretty set on what they advertised.”
During her job hunt, Rendon read the book Knock ’em Dead 2011: The Ultimate Job Search Guide, which she used to refocus her approach.
“My résumé became less me-centered and more about letting [employers] know these were the contributions I could make to their department,” she said.
Ginger Slavens, 28, another new UTA business graduate, worked off and on in sales for Home Depot while in college and — having been rehired three weeks ago — would like a job in marketing at the company’s Atlanta headquarters.
Slavens, estimates that she applied for 80 jobs this year and says she focuses on what she finds on websites like CareerBuilder and Monster.
“Then I apply,” she says.
“Then I wait for the e-mail that tells me, sorry,” she says, laughing.
Slavens networks with her professors and people in her business fraternity. She has revamped the order and look of her résumé. She would be interested in sales, but only for a combination of base salary and commission, not 100 percent commission.
“I love doing business-to-business sales and doing presentations,” she says.
At the University of North Texas, 400 employers came to campus to recruit this school year, up at least 25 percent, said Dan Naegeli, executive director of career and counseling services.
Information technology, engineering, and finance were strong points, and “we saw a little more than we’ve ever seen before for fine arts and liberal arts students, which was encouraging,” he said.
Education is still off because of funding cuts, Naegeli said, even though private-school hiring has jumped.
Some employers who have come to campus “are being more particular and maybe not recruiting for the numbers of students they have in the past,” Naegeli said. “Instead of 10, 20, 30 positions, they may be seeking two or three.”
Patrick John McCormick, 24, who graduated with a bachelor’s in converged media from the radio, TV and film department, landed a full-time job as a production assistant for Howard Stern’s television show in New York after completing an internship there this spring.
One thing that may have helped McCormick get the internship: printing a QR code on his résumé that linked to his website. McCormick says his goal was to end up in New York.
“I didn’t have to do an internship” to graduate, he said, “but it was highly recommended.”
At Texas Christian University, 56 percent of graduates responding to a survey said they have jobs or are going to graduate school, said John Thompson, executive director of TCU Career Services. Some of the remaining 44 percent were waiting on acceptance into grad school, Thompson said. TCU had a total of 1,400 graduating seniors this spring.
The numbers are similar to last year’s, Thompson said. TCU is crunching the numbers by degree, he said.
In the Neeley School of Business, 84 percent of the graduating MBA class has job offers, spokeswoman Elaine Cole said.
Bill Bartholomew, 21, who graduated a week ago with a bachelor’s in accounting and is now enrolled in the master’s program, has already accepted a full-time job with KPMG after he graduates.
Bartholomew, who grew up in Southlake, finished an internship at KPMG this year and has been an intern at XTO Energy for two years. He learned about the opportunities through Neeley.
The job search “was pretty smooth,” said Bartholomew, who took advantage of the school’s mock interviews and career fairs. “I felt pretty competitive going in.”
Jessica Cates, associate director of the Alcon Career Center at Neeley, said “comparing this time to last year, we have a lot more students who have reported positions. The salary seems to be a little higher, and the amount of students who have had more than one job offer has been greater. We had a lot of students report their job offers in the fall.”
The National Association of Colleges and Employers , in a separate report in April, said salary offers this spring have been 4.5 percent higher on average over last year, the second straight year of increases. At the worst point in the recession, salary offers for new college graduates dipped 6 percent, Koncz said.
The number of recruiters at TCU has been “much, much higher” this year, Cates said.
During her three years as associate director, “this has been the first year where it seemed to be a little overwhelming in terms of the activity employers wanted to have on campus,” she said.
Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808
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