The Collegian
Sunday, June 26, 2022

Recent grads, seniors reevaluate career goals amid crumbling job market

Nearly 75,000 people were laid off in the United States and the world earlier this week thanks to big cuts from companies including Home Depot, Caterpillar and Sprint Nextel. And for members of this year's graduating class, it's all they can do not to cringe.

Seniors are not only concerned about whether they will be hired after graduation, but they are also deciding whether they need to put their dream jobs on hold for a while.

"Any job is a good job in this market," said Chris Yates, a 2008 graduate of the University of Richmond.

Like the other 533,000 people who lost jobs in November, Yates, a former Circuit City employee, found himself out of work.

At Richmond, Yates was a journalism major with a history minor and he had a sports writing internship for a daily newspaper after his sophomore year of college. In a stable economy, Yates' degree and real-world experience would have probably enabled him to float along well and even excel post-graduation. When the young graduate joined Circuit City's team in October, working as a copy editor in the company's Web department, he still had reservations.

"In early October, it was just becoming apparent that they were having problems, and it was definitely a concern of mine when I was interviewing," Yates said. "I was told they were not in the best of shape, but the Web site was doing the best it ever was, and that it was the safest department."

But by the first Thursday in November, less than six months after he graduated college and only 32 days after he began his supposedly steady post-graduation career, Circuit City informed its Richmond employees that it would be laying off 40 percent of its workers on the spot that day.

"I was upset, but not shocked," Yates said, explaining that he was preparing to start looking for back-up jobs anyway. "At that point, they were doing terribly. Stock was down 95 percent, and everybody could see they were done."

Leslie Stevenson, director of the Career Development Center at Richmond, also felt the effects of Circuit City's bankruptcy as her husband, a long-time employee, was let go less than two weeks ago.

"50,000 people alone lost their jobs across the nation that day," Stevenson said. But she also said graduating seniors should not start to panic and encouraged them to make an appointment at the CDC to help ease the job search process.

The CDC has already seen a 40 percent increase in its appointment numbers this year. There has been only a slight increase in the 10 percent of alumni who usually return because they want or need to switch jobs. A good portion of the additional returning alumni this year are from the failing investment banking industry, Stevenson said.

Senior Sean Sneeden said he felt fortunate to be hired by the industry suffering most in the recession economy. An economics major with a math minor, Sneeden served as an intern for two different major banks in New York. While the most recent company he worked for typically hired interns who excelled in its program, the failing economy kept them from extending job offers to anyone in the intern department this year.

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But Sneeden said he still felt he had benefited from those internships, since they had resulted in an investment banking job with a different company.

"I think it definitely helps boost your resume even if you decide investment banking is not for you," Sneeden said, referring to his experience. "You definitely gain a set of skills that you can't really get in school because it's all about being on the job and knowledge of markets."

Senior Kristy Hajducek also said she believed her internships were an advantage to finding her post-graduation job working as a staff auditor for Deloitte. While she said she expected to be in the company for the next three to five years until she has worked her way up to a senior auditor position, she said she's still cautious of how the recession could affect her position.

"I had to sign a contract saying I was accepting their offer, but there is a slight thought in my mind that something still could change, and I want to make sure it's not going to," Hajducek said, because she was hired before the recession was official. "I'm just making sure I'm e-mailing and keeping up my networking."

For those seniors searching for careers outside of business, the economy can be both a blessing and a curse. While business, finance and communications industries have been hit the hardest this year, Stevenson said there had been an increase in government hiring as well as non-profit organizations, both of which need more employees to support a nation during a financial downturn.

But corporate positions tend to do hiring earlier. Many business students can be hired often more than six months before they graduate. For other industries, Stevenson said, it was a matter of students getting their resumes out to potential employers and using networking tactics so that when a position opened up, especially near graduation, a student could be considered to fill it immediately.

Although Stevenson said there were not many statistics recording how many members of the class of 2009 would be unemployed following graduation, there was still significant anecdotal evidence.

"For instance, with the class of 2007," Stevenson said, "the possibility to negotiate salaries may have been a little more possible. But for the class of 2009, even if they can't increase it, it still can't hurt to work with them."

Last April, the National Association of Colleges and Employers reported that the starting salary for the class of 2008 was going to be 4 percent higher than the previous year. But once the recession became inevitable, those numbers flattened. And while NACE has not yet reported significant decreased hiring expectations for 2009 graduates, they are releasing fairly certain reports that an increase is unlikely. In stable economies, hiring expectations almost always increase each year.

Other reports by Manpower Inc. said that during the first quarter of this year, two-thirds of U.S. employers plan to freeze the size of their staffs, while the Labor Department said the average work week had already been cut back to 33.3 hours.

The CDC plans to begin surveying the senior class about post-graduation plans beginning in March or April and continuing through December. For now, however, Stevenson encourages students to be flexible and to not get discouraged with their searches.

"It might take longer than it normally would, but we don't want them to panic," she said. Stevenson also added that while it's important for students to go where they're happy, they need to examine their financial situations and consider whether they need to take one of the first jobs they can get or wait until their dream jobs come along.

Yates, who is now employed again with a newspaper in eastern North Carolina, agreed.

"It seems to be once you get an interview, it's not so bad, but getting the initial contact seems to be the hardest," he said. "Just keep going at it and put as many resumes and applications out there as possible. Network, use your friends; it doesn't hurt."

Yates offered a final word of advice to graduating seniors: "Don't be picky, and don't be too prideful."

Contact staff writer Allie Artur at allie.artur@richmond.edu

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