Out of School and Out of a Job

Philip Rhie/Guardian
Philip Rhie/Guardian

Though financial reports indicate the national economic crisis may have an end in sight, recent college graduates are finding little reassurance in the face of dismal employment opportunities nationwide.

“We are looking at a challenging job market for students graduating this year,” Career Services Center director Andy Ceperley said. “Nationally, employers are predicting a 7-percent drop in campus recruitment compared to last year.”

These worsening conditions coincide with a 26-year high in national unemployment.

In early 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported unemployment rates of around 5 percent; however, joblessness shot up over the last year and now hovers at around 10 percent.

This discomforting reality is a result of a global recession that began in September 2008. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 6.7 million jobs have been lost nationwide since the start of 2008.

Last year, economics professor Richard Carson told the Guardian that he did not expect any improvements in the near future. However, he recently suggested that the worst may have already passed.

“My impression is that this year will not be much better than last year,” Carson said. “However, there is a clear sense that the economy is turning around, and it may be better by the spring, when most students start looking for jobs. Over the longer run, the job situation looks more optimistic than it did a year ago.”

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Vice President John Fernald offered a similar viewpoint in his Oct. 13 economic report.

“There are clear risks to the outlook, and some indicators continue to decline — most notably, employment,” the report said. “Nonetheless, the pace of job losses is slowing. In the first half of the year, employment fell by more than half a million jobs a month. In August, employment fell only 216,000.”

According to a September report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, teaching jobs top the list of strong employment opportunities for recent college graduates. Previously, the No. 1 position was held by management and sales jobs.

The report also said that over the past year, the average yearly salary for recent college graduates has decreased from $49,224 to $48,633.

A study by CareerOneStop — an organization that offers career information and resources ­— anticipated tremendous growth in job opportunities for computer software engineers in California. Employment numbers are expected to rise from 87,300 to 128,400 — a 47-percent increase.

“We are finding that opportunities for our technical graduates remain strong,” Ceperly said. “Our Oct. 29 Triton Science and Technology Job and Internship Fair is generating favorable employer interest.”

According to NACE, 43 percent of employers expect to continue hiring as many college graduates as they did last year, while 17 percent of employers aim to increase hiring, and 40 percent of employers predict they will decrease the number of recent graduates on their payroll.

“Traditionally, employers tend to be conservative about their college hiring when the economy is in flux,” NACE Executive Director Marilyn Mackes said in the report. “Although employers anticipate doing most of their recruiting in the fall, we are seeing some movement to recruit in the spring. This is likely due to anticipation that the economic recovery will be underway by then.”

As many graduates wait for the economy to pick up, Ceperley recommended building work experience and credibility rather than going back to school.

“Students should look at post-graduate internships, fellowships and other ways to build their credentials, demonstrate their work ethic and establish important connections,” Ceperley said. “Some will inevitably choose to dive right into graduate or professional school. This is not necessarily the best solution unless the student is focused and has a clear sense of their options when the advanced degree is completed. Simply waiting out a weak economy in school is seldom the wisest tactic.”

Revelle College alumnus Jimmy Lee, who graduated from UCSD last June, chose to pursue an internship when he was unable to land a full-time job in the management or consulting industries after leaving school.

“I think internships — rather than part-time positions — are definitely preferred by companies, since it’s essentially free labor,” Lee said. “For me, it’s helped me get my foot in the door of the type of industry I’d like to work in, make important connections with people that I might work with in the future and learn valuable skills that can only be learned at a workplace.”

According to a survey conducted by the Career Services Center — from a pool of recently employed graduates who completed their degrees between December 2007 and June 2008 — 29 percent successfully found jobs through internships or other previous experiences, 26 percent used online resources, 21 percent contacted employers directly and 15 percent found employment through networking.

Ceperley said graduates should remain optimistic about their options, no matter what profession they are seeking.

“So few employment destinations are directly aligned to college major,” he said. “Outside of engineering, computer science and economics, graduates traditionally pursue a wide range of employers — from business to communication to education and nonprofit. A college degree from an excellent institution like UC San Diego is a plus, regardless of the academic discipline.”

Readers can contact Constance Qian at [email protected].