New college graduates face a tight job market

TAMPA

Angello Giuria graduates from the University of South Florida next month with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, and the job market could hardly look worse. Giuria, 26, of Sarasota has put in 25 applications and attended a variety of career fairs, including one this month at USF. That has led to just two interviews. At one, "they said they had 30 people they were going to interview, but they were only going to hire one or two," he said. Giuria is hardly alone, says Drema Howard, director of USF's Career Center. She has helped college students make connections with employers for nearly 30 years, and this is the first time she has seen a downturn in the economy affect new and recent graduates like the Great Recession has.

"They're competing not just with other college students," Howard said. "They're competing with people with years and years of experience who are willing to take entry-level or part-time jobs."

Not every graduate faces the same market, Howard said. Prospects for those in health care are still fairly strong, and accounting is a field with pretty stable demand. For engineers, it depends on the major. With construction lagging, for example, the outlook for civil engineers remains rocky.

And it's not just that competition is fierce. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported this month that starting salaries offered to new graduates with bachelor's degrees are down about 1.7 percent, from $48,515 to $47,673 a year.

There are some glimmers of improvement. The association said employers expect to hire 5.3 percent more new college graduates this year than last year. It is the first positive hiring outlook for grads since October 2008.

Another survey commissioned by CareerBuilder.com found about 44 percent of employers surveyed said they plan to hire recent college graduates this year. That's about the same as last year. One in five of the employers who are planning to hire grads said they will hire more this year than last.

Still, the market remains tough enough to be fodder for pop culture. Consider this recent headline on a fake news story in The Onion: "New College Graduates To Be Cryogenically Frozen Until Job Market Improves."

David Cox, 26, graduated from USF in May 2009 with a bachelor's degree in international studies. He speaks five languages — English, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and French — and has lived in Japan and China. But his more than 100 job applications so far have stirred up few prospects.

"I've been to a lot of career fairs lately," Cox said. "It just seems like I hand out my resumes, but there's been no on-the-spot interviews. No one's really been inviting me to their offices."

Idriss Barnes, 23, graduated from USF in December with a bachelor's degree in social work. She has put in 35 applications inside and outside her field, has attended three job fairs since graduating and has gotten three interviews.

"I didn't go to school not to work within my degree," she said. "It's very discouraging when you feel as if you're settling for a job, but I need to pay my bills."

Kellyn Walters, 23, graduated from USF in May 2009 with a bachelor's degree in accounting. She has submitted 30 to 40 applications since graduating and gotten one telephone interview. Finding a job is "more competitive with older people coming back into the market," she said.

Fast facts

Job search tips for grads

• Understand your skills, have a polished resume and be ready to tell the story of how your skills fit the job you seek.

• Look at all your options; cast a wider net in your search.

• Identify your industries and build your network of contacts within those industries. Join professional organizations in your field, and volunteer to work at meetings of those organizations.

• Listen for opportunities everywhere you go.

Source: USF Career Center

New college graduates face a tight job market 04/25/10 [Last modified: Monday, April 26, 2010 1:53pm]

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