Seniors facing job hardships

  • A new report says overall hiring for 2009 graduates is down 8 percent.
  • Nearly all sectors have experienced some sort of decline in hiring.
  • Many employers are filling positions faster than ever, making the job market more competitive.

For graduating seniors seeking employment, the general consensus is that jobs are still out there — they're just smaller in number and being snatched up faster than ever before.

One of the many symptoms of the current economic recession has been a decline in the number of jobs and internships available for graduating college students.

The Collegiate Employment Research Institute, which studies trends in the hiring of graduates nationwide, found that overall employment opportunities for 2009 graduates are down 8 percent.

CERI Director Phil Gardner will present detailed findings of the organization's annual report on hiring trends at 1 p.m. today in the Weasler Auditorium.

Also today, the WorkForce 2009 career fair will be held in the Alumni Memorial Union, featuring 100 employers.

There were 135 in attendance last year, although that number was higher than normal, said Laura Kestner, director of Marquette's Career Services Center.

"It's a tough job market really across the board," she said.

Gardner said this is only the beginning of difficulties for job seekers.

"It's getting worse," he said. "I don't see things turning around in the next year."

There was about a 15 to 20 point decline in hiring from last year to this year, Gardner said. In 2008, there was an increase in post-graduation hires.

While certain hiring industries are doing better than others, "every area is being affected," he said.

Kathleen Marsaglia, a senior in the College of Nursing, has found that even as hospitals are facing a national nursing shortage, employment opportunities are difficult to find.

"It's kind of frustrating," she said. "It's easier said than done."

Marsaglia said she had sent in applications to several hospitals and only received an interview request from one.

That hospital will not make any hiring decisions until March or April, she said.

Marsaglia said she knew of only one Marquette nursing student with a job placement.

Normally resilient sectors such as engineering, computer sciences and accounting have scaled back demands for new hires, although not as dramatically as other areas, Gardner said.

But because these areas tend to hire consistently, any drop feels significant, Kestner said.

"A lot of these students are probably feeling the pinch because they've never felt the pinch before," she said.

Jackie Hampson, a senior in the College of Communication, has begun searching for a job, but has had little success in the early stages.

"A lot of places are hiring immediately," she said.

One factor making job searches difficult is that more people are accepting the first job offer they get, meaning positions are being filled faster than before, Kestner said.

She said one company canceled plans to conduct on-campus interviews because everyone who had been offered jobs with the company for the fall had accepted.

"This doesn't mean there aren't jobs," she said. "They're just more competitive."

Colleen Moore, a senior in the College of Communication, has begun looking into service opportunities after graduation.

She said this decision was not solely related to the economy, but that it was an opportunity "to get some experience without totally running into the job market."

Hampson said she is also now considering service opportunities.

Both Moore and Hampson stressed the importance of remaining optimistic, but also realistic, while facing such a difficult job market.

Another factor adding to the challenges for soon-to-be college graduates is that many older workers are waiting longer to retire, so positions are opening at a slower rate.

"It all really depends when the retirees decide to leave," Gardner said.

Definite goals and careful marketing of assets are crucial for college graduates seeking employment, he said.

"It's all about your skills and packaging your skill sets," Gardner said. "College students need to be really focused on what they want."

He advised students to make use of campus career centers and networking opportunities.

"You can't just send out resumes," he said.

Kestner listed five criteria students should meet in order to maximize their chances of finding employment.

She said students need a clear career goal, preparation for what a job search requires, honed communication skills, a positive outlook and a willingness to engage in networking.

Kestner said the Career Services Center is equipped to help students in all of these areas with offerings such as job search classes and lessons in resume writing.

However, she said it is crucial for students to take an active role in their job search and not to rely on Career Services to find employment for them.

"I can't care more about your job search than you do," Kestner said. "Students need to meet us halfway."