Job offices optimistic about growth
Area college students can take steps to avoid facing grim job prospects if they prepare an aggressive career strategy plan that includes getting work experience in their field before they graduate and finding a way to “stand out” for potential employers, say LSU and Southern University career counseling heads.
“The jobs are out there, but the students have to be prepared and know how to find the jobs,” said Mary Feduccia, director of LSU Career Services. “Tough times require a proactive approach, but it’s not as much doom-and-gloom as students would think.”
About half, or 53.6 percent, of college students in the country with bachelor’s degrees under age 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, according to the 2011 Current Population Survey compiled by Northeastern University researchers and the Economic Policy Institute using United States Department of Labor figures.
Tamara Montgomery, director of Southern University’s Career Services, said despite the discouraging picture, she encourages students to stay upbeat.
“Even though the job market may be where it is now, it’s not always going to be that way. Be prepared, get ready, you have to set yourself apart. We’re coming out of this economic downturn, but you have to have a positive attitude.”
The report also showed that young college graduates in 2011 were more likely to be employed as waiters or food-service helpers, bartenders, receptionists or in other underemployed occupations rather than as engineers, chemists or computer professionals.
“It’s the toughest job situation that we’ve seen since the early 1980s (economic downturn) and it seems to be taking a while to get back, but it’s improving,” said Feduccia.
Unemployment rates for young college graduates increased from 5.7 percent in 2007 to 10.4 percent in 2010, then decreased to 9.4 percent in 2011, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Both LSU and Southern University offered a fall career fair earlier this week, where students could apply for internships, co-ops and full-time jobs, Montgomery and Feduccia said. Feduccia said recruiters were optimistic.
“We tell students to use the resources available to them. Their chances are so much better if they know what they need to do and get the work-related skills rather than waiting the semester before they graduate,” Feduccia said.
Montgomery said students can stand out in a number of ways in today’s tough job market.
“We tell them to have multiple skills and to perform well in the classroom, because employers are looking at that. They need to have honesty and integrity. Dress properly, have good manners and don’t go into a job interview with the attitude of ‘I know it all.’ But go in being humble. Companies look for people who are teachable.”
Students must also learn how to network, said Feduccia. “Students don’t understand the value of networking. A lot of students think that networking is who you know and not what you know. No one gets a job just because they know somebody. The student has to prove his own merit.”
Montgomery said patience is key. “The economy will turn around. You can make it. Stay ready.”
Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance reporter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.