Stagnant Job Market Keeps Window Cracked Open for Graduates

    The Career Services Center offers individual and group job counseling for students. Center employees claim that despite today’s bleak economy, jobs are still available for proactive graduates. (Joshua Meador/Guardian)

    Although experts remain unceratin about the impacts of the current economic crisis on employment prospects for 2008 graduates, trends indicate a stagnant or declining job market that will only worsen for future graduates if conditions don’t improve.

    “As the U.S. economy enters a recession, firms will lay off some of their existing workers and hire fewer new employees,” economics professor Richard Carson said. “Some of these impacts are currently being felt by last year’s graduating class at UCSD, but the situation will get worse before it gets better.”

    Director of the Career Services Center Andy Ceperley, on the other hand, remains optimistic.

    “What we find historically with downturns in the economy is that college hiring is the last thing to be impacted,” Ceperley said. “Given what we’re seeing on campus and nationally, projections for hiring are pretty close to what they were last year, though this … might improve or could become more challenging [as time goes on].”

    The Triton Fall Job & Internship Fair last Wednesday hosted 145 employers recruiting students for full- and part-time positions and internships. This marks a slight drop from the 174 employers that participated in last year’s fair.

    Conversely, on-campus interviews for permanent positions have increased 36 percent since last year, with growth strongest in the field of technology.

    “There is almost always a place for an entry-level college graduate, even when competing with someone who was laid off,” Ceperley said. “For college grads that are trainable, high-energy and less expensive in terms of a starting salary, the college grad remains a favorable pool of talent for many large organizations.”

    Despite bleak projections for the national economy, hiring for new graduates is not expected to decline dramatically in sectors other than banking and finance.

    According to the latest report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, revised hiring projections find that employers now expect their college hiring rates to stay even with last year’s levels, with some variation across industries.

    “Overall, hiring looks flat for now and some employers are indicating some movement to cut back,” said Marilyn Mackes, executive director of NACE. “Many of this year’s graduates will find fewer openings available to them and may have to consider different types of opportunities, industries and organizations than they planned.”

    According to NACE, the only field to see an increase in hiring expectations for the class of 2009 is government. Hiring in manufacturing and professional services is predicted to remain essentially flat, while all other industry categories are expected to see a decline in hiring rates.

    “It is hard to see any real bright spots right now in terms of hiring,” Carson said. “The picture will become clearer over the next couple of months as the financial crisis settles down and some sectors start to recover quicker than others.”

    Based on his observation of last week’s career fair, however, Ceperley expects to see a multitude of opportunities for graduating students with skills coveted by technology firms.

    “Industries are still going gang buster in entry-level hiring,” he said. “Technology firms and high-tech companies continue to do very, very well.

    A February report published by NACE shows engineering services and accounting firms as expressing the greatest interest in recent graduates. Consulting, retail and petroleum-product companies, many of which offer substantial starting salaries, are also looking at college graduates as potential hiring candidates.

    Although the report indicates that employers continue to express interest in graduates from a variety of disciplines, Ceperley warns that this is not the year for students to sit back and wait for employers to find them.

    “Many students in the arts and humanities will need to be especially creative in their job search, focusing heavily on employment areas where their broad-based skills in communication, creativity and analysis can be fully utilized,” he said.

    Echoing a trend that has occurred in previous economic downturns, many students anxious about entering a challenging job market choose to pursue graduate school instead. Although final application numbers aren’t yet available, many schools ­— especially business schools — have reported a sharp increase in applicant interest.

    The Law School Admissions Council has seen a 15-percent increase in the number of LSAT examinations administered since last year, and officers for Kaplan Test Prep & Admissions report a sharp enrollment increase in Master of Business Administration programs and Graduate Management Admissions Test practice courses.

    Ceperley explained that although a graduate degree may up a graduate’s chances of success in the increasingly competitive job market, students should not pursue graduate school simply to avoid a sour economy.

    “Getting out there and getting experience with your UCSD degree is a much better strategy than going to graduate school to wait out the economy, unless the advanced degree is actually a thoughtful decision,” he said. “By being proactive with their search, networking with UCSD alumni in fields of interest, pursuing internships before graduation and being flexible in their pursuit of their first destination job, all our graduating students can land successfully into the workplace.”

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