Difficult times ahead for college graduates

2001 Graduating Student & Alumni Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers. Graphics created by Jason Dobbins/Page Designer

If you’re getting ready to graduate and are concerned about finding a job, you should be, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

The survey, conducted for NACE’s Job Outlook 2002 report, revealed that employers expect a 20 percent decrease in their college hiring. Along with the decrease in hiring comes an increase in competition and lower starting salaries.

NACE surveyed 1,803 of its employer members. Four hundred fifty-seven, or 25 percent, responded.

The Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University published similar results in their executive summary of Recruiting Trends 2001-2002. According to the report, employers are expressing a high level of uncertainty regarding the hiring of new graduates due to the sluggish economy.

Betsy John Jennings, director of the Career Development Center at Northern Kentucky University, said in this area, there are some fields that still look very promising. Those fields are accounting, sales and marketing, health care and education.

The area that is the least promising right now is information technology.

“IT has been awful,” said Jennings, “but it’s slowly building again.”

As for starting salaries, Jennings said most bachelor’s degree graduates can expect to make between $26,000 and $29,000 a year, depending on the company, the field and the location. Accounting and computer science graduates’ starting wages are even higher. But, said Karen Chinetti, who is also with the Career Development Center at NKU, computer science jobs are hard to find right now.

There are things students can do to increase their chances of finding employment. One of which is to consider relocating. According to Jennings, 98 percent of NKU graduates are not open to relocating.

“It’s the perfect opportunity while you’re foot loose and fancy free and you don’t have any of the have-to ties,” said Jennings.

Chinetti agreed. “It opens up a nationwide set of opportunities to you instead of just the Tri-state. For a traditional 22-year-old who is single and just starting a career, it’s a prime time.”

Another suggestion for soon-to-be grads is to get experience in their field before graduating. “It can be an internship or a part-time job,” Jennings said. “It makes it easier [after graduation] to get a job.”

NACE also recommends job experience. According to its online article, “Employers Offer Job-Search Advice to Graduates,” “Employers look for candidates who have gained real-world experience through summer employment, work-study programs, and internships or co-operative education programs.”

The article also recommends to: start looking early, use your campus career center and research the companies you are interested in.

“By taking the time to learn about an organization,” the article states, “you will be better prepared to ask and answer questions. This indicates to an employer that you have a genuine interest in the position and the organization.”

One other thing to keep in mind, according to Jennings, is that companies like NKU students. She said, “They know our students have been in the trenches. They’ve been working since they were 16 at anything and everything. They’re used to working. They come in with a strong work ethic. We are known for that.”