Your 2009 Job Outlook: Not All is Lost

If you just graduated,  these words of advice from NSCS’ Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships, John Crowley,  will be helpful.

Ok, I know.  We’ve all heard the same news.  Corporations are failing.  People are out of work with few prospects on the horizon.  Prices for goods and services are increasing, and we feel helpless in our attempts to stop the increases – mainly because they are out of our control.  Things are hard all around, and I’m sure many of you have been directly affected by some of the events of the past year.  It has been drilled into you that you needed to go to college to get a good job.  You’ve worked hard, studied even harder and saved money to earn your degree.  According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE, March 2009), hiring trends among recent college graduates has dropped 22% from last year, and the number of interns being hired has dropped 21%.  What is a young college graduate supposed to do?

First of all, stop.  Breathe.  Relax.  Be patient.  You’ve done everything right, and the time you’ve spent in school will truly pay you a lifetime of dividends.  When you started on your college path 4 years ago, no one could have possibly foreseen all of the events of the past 18 months. But keep this in mind:  As difficult as the recent past has been for so many people (maybe even your parents), you’re just at the beginning of your professional career, and you’ll survive in the long run.  I’ve been talking with recruiters about some of these trends over the past 8 months, and I’ve shared some of my observations below.

Believe it or not, there are places that are still hiring!  From some of my conversations with recruiters, I’ve learned that there are job opportunities within certain industries – i.e., energy companies, health care, some federal contractors and the federal government.  According to the NACE 2009 Job Outlook Survey, certain majors are still in large demand.  Among them are accounting, engineering (mechanical, electrical and computer), computer science, business and economics/finance.  If you happened to have studied one of these disciplines, you have a good chance of still finding an opportunity right now.  Even if you didn’t study one of the still in-demand majors, you can still find some meaningful opportunities out there.  How, you might ask, will I find those opportunities?  Keep reading!

You may have to be more creative in your job search, and you’ll want to consider different industries that need your skills.  For example, you may be an accounting major and had your heart set working for a Big 4 firm.  If you haven’t received an employment offer from where you expected to receive one, then look elsewhere.  The last time I checked, every organization, regardless of size, industry or type, has an accounting department.  If the job on Wall Street isn’t there, then look at Main Street.  There are even specialized temporary agencies for people with certain skills.  The more creative you can be, the broader you can make your search.  Sometimes, you’ll be able to perform more hands-on work with smaller companies, which will help you grow your skills level.

If you know you want to develop a professional career within a particular industry, look for ways to build that experience outside of employment.  Consider working as a volunteer or as a non-paid intern if you can’t find a paying opportunity.  Most organizations still have work that needs to get done, even if they can’t afford to pay you.  You will learn pertinent industry information through non-paid work.  Additionally, you may want to consider attending conferences/meetings within the industry’s professional associations.  Not only are they a great way to add to your knowledge base, they can serve as invaluable networking events, and most organizations offer student discounts on dues payments.

Another point that I want to stress is this:  Don’t leave your humility at the door.  Bear with me…I don’t mean to lecture you, but the one trait that can help you land on your feet is your adaptability.  Be a team player!  You may have a college degree, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help with a labor-intensive task that needs to get done.  I earned my undergraduate degree almost 20 years ago (yikes!), and I am a member of my organization’s Executive Team.  I have profit and loss responsibility, and I’m held accountable for my area’s overall performance.  But I still answer my own telephone…I don’t have an assistant…I draft my own correspondence and run the envelopes through the postage machine…heck, I even have to change the water bottle in our water cooler from time to time!  Earning your degree is a great accomplishment and will open doors.  Just try not to step on any toes as you walk through the doors, and you will earn your co-workers’ respect.  Try to pitch in where you can.  If you volunteer for projects that have to get done that no one necessarily wants to do, that speaks to your character more than you’ll ever imagine, and when folks look to hire or promote people, that type of initiative gets noticed.

I know what you’re up against, and it can feel like things will never turn around, but remember that there is help out there if you need it.  If you have student loans for example, you have 6 months before you have to start repayment.  Take that time now to develop your budget and map out your finances.  If you think you won’t be able to make your monthly payments, talk to your lender – you may be able to qualify for lower payments until you find steady employment.

By the way, Congratulations!  You have earned a major milestone at this point in your life, and you’re about to embark on an amazing professional career.  It’s not going to be easy, but then earning your degree wasn’t easy either.  You’ll get out of your job search only what you put into it.

-John Crowley

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