College grads of '83 find job offers scarce

For the class of 1983, this is a tough spring. There's even somewhat less demand for graduates in some technical areas, such as engineering and computer science.

With only two months until graduation, job offers are slow in coming - and for those offered jobs, salary levels are only slightly above those given 1982 graduates.

''This is the toughest year since World War II for college graduates,'' says John Shingleton, director of placement at Michigan State University.

Adds Linda Pengilly, information assistant at the College Placement Council, ''The economy is affecting the job offers students are receiving.''

Because of uncertainty over the overall strength or weakness of the economy, many corporations have not made decisions yet on whom they will hire, says Victor Lindquist, director of placement at Northwestern University. ''We have a lot of kids who have had interviews who have not heard anything. They haven't received letters of rejection or letters of acceptance.''

But in the next four to six weeks, he says, many of the June graduates will know where they will be working.

Mr. Shingleton, who is also the author of a report called ''Recruiting Trends ,'' which surveys the hiring intentions of 637 businesses and governmental agencies, estimates that roughly 80 percent of the 1.3 million seniors graduating from colleges or universities this June will find suitable jobs. The remaining 20 percent will either join the ranks of the unemployed, go on to graduate schools, or become ''underemployed,'' that is, take jobs they are overqualified for.

This is not to say that there are not areas of strength. Mr. Shingleton says the demand remains strong for most types of engineers, including mechanical and chemical, as well as computer-science majors. Normally, he notes, such graduates would receive five or six job offers by June. This year they are only getting two or three. Because of the reduced numbers of offers, Ms. Pengilly says, June graduates are making their decisions on which job to take faster.

Not all engineers are in demand. Civil engineers, says Mr. Lindquist, are having a rough time getting job offers, as are architects. Petroleum engineers, he comments, ''are not the golden boys they were a few years ago.'' New jobs in this area, he says, are not running at the same level they were a few years ago, when the oil companies were ''trying to dig as many holes as they could.''

This is definitely the case at Mobil Corporation, says John Barch, manager of programs and corporate recruiting. In 1980-81, he says, Mobil hired 900 college graduates. Last year, hiring plummeted to 425 college graduates. This year, it will be even lower.

Even in the computer area, says Anne Brandwein, associate professor of statistics and computer sciences at Baruch College in New York, things aren't as rosy as they have been in the past. ''Students in computer sciences,'' she says, ''aren't being placed as fast as they used to be.'' She recounts how one of her graduate students - who has spent 15 to 20 years as a teacher, and has excellent work experience - is having ''a terrible time'' getting a job.

For some June graduates, however, the prospects this year were bright. Take, for example, Suzanne Thornton, a June graduate at Dartmouth College, located in Hanover, N.H. Ms. Thornton, who is a math major with a good working knowledge of computers, had job offers in New York from Touche Ross, an accounting firm; Morgan Guaranty Trust Company, a bank; and Merrill Lynch & Co. She accepted a job at Merrill Lynch in the municipal-finance area as a research analyst.

''Being a woman and a math major helped me,'' says Ms. Thornton, who was captain of the women's track team and active in sorority life.

Such outside activities, says Frank Paparella, manager of college relations for Merrill Lynch, are among the traits the broker was looking for when it recruited Ms. Thornton.

''We are looking for good quality education and evidence of leadership,'' he says. ''We look at extracurriculars and try to find out if the candidate has an interest in business.''

This year Merrill Lynch received 2,000 applications for the 16 positions it intended to fill through recruitment. Mr. Paparella and his staff narrowed this down to 700 people for interviews at college campuses around the country. After those interviews, they then asked 80 candidates to New York City for more interviews, and from those sessions chose 16 individuals to enter what it considers its premier training program. Merrill Lynch will hire more college graduates. But only 16 were chosen for this program. An additonal 16, including Ms. Thornton, were chosen to be trained as research analysts.

Like Ms. Thornton, many students are showing a lot more interest in nonindustrial careers. This is in part because recruiting by manufacturing firms was down 20 to 30 percent at most schools. Thus, when Chase Manhattan Bank visted campuses this fall and winter, the bank had completely full schedules, says Janet Nelson, vice-president, manager of professional recruitment at Chase.

''This has not always been the case,'' she adds. Chase, in choosing the candidates for its training program this year, looked for students who demonstrated leadership qualities, displayed maturity, and had some previous work experience. The student's major or grade-point average, Ms. Nelson says, was not critical.

To help the students who have yet to find jobs cope with the less-than-bright job scene, Mr. Lindquist says Northwestern has formed a Jobs Club, which he describes as a self-help group similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. ''It is mentored by a professional staff,'' he says. ''The students come in a couple of times a week. They have responded very favorably.''

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