College-graduation season unleashes a new wave of job-seekers. This year, many will converge on a low number of positions.
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"We are trying to fill our drawer with résumés," she says. "Projects in our business have been cut back, especially by state governments. But when that changes, we'll need people."Skip to next paragraph
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Rasheq Zarif, a mechanical-engineering student from Paramus, N.J., isn't very optimistic. "It's not easy, especially in the engineering field, to get a job today," he says. "A lot of really good companies aren't even accepting interns because they don't have the funding. If they can't even afford interns, that's not a good sign."
Students entering the job market should work hard to meet with anybody who might know anybody in a position to hire, says Patricia Macken, director of student employment at Columbia. "Friends, parents of friends, clergy, former teachers, any opportunity they get to network, they should take advantage of it." (For many students, networking represents a lost art. See story.)
"Networking becomes absolutely essential because so many other people are trying to reach every company that has an opening," says Jennifer Lawrence, assistant dean for career services at Boston University's School of Management. "The person who's going to get to the top of the pile is the one who has taken the time to get to know different folks in the organization, and learn a little bit more about the organization."
Few workplace experts advise choosing a career track based entirely on which sectors appear hot. But many counsel flexibility as students enter the hunt. (See story.) Similar kinds of work - accounting, for example - can be applied to a variety of sectors and transferred. Even internships should not be shunned, experts say, as a way in. Experience counts.
In terms of industries, a few bright spots can be found. The healthcare industry, for one, shows no signs of slowing. Nearly a quarter million healthcare jobs were added between March 2002 and March 2003.
This continues the trend of the past decade, during which employment in the sector has grown by more than 200,000 jobs a year.
"Biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare are areas that, for a variety of reasons, are stronger," says Mackes. "There isn't anything out there that's really booming."
A recent update by NACE shows the hiring picture dimming further, overall: Nearly one-third of those firms included in the original survey in the fall indicated this winter that they plan further decreases.
"The market," Mackes says, "is weak to fair at best."
Keep your options open, say the career-building pros. "There are many jobs that are going begging and many people looking for work, but their skills and what employers are looking for don't match," says Greg Chartier, a human-resources consultant.
"We're encouraging students to broaden their interests, to think more about marketing or public relations," says Patricia Macken, director of student employment at New York's Columbia University. "And since the corporate sector is so depressed, they should think about finding these kinds of positions with not-for-profits." They are hiring, she says, and the experience can help during later job searches.
Jennifer Lawrence, assistant dean for career services at Boston University's School of Management, says there are opportunities, at least regionally, in insurance companies, commercial finance, and banking. "We're also seeing retail," she says, "and everyone's hiring in sales."
Government jobs shouldn't be ruled out, either. Although state and local governments are experiencing layoffs, the federal government is a different story, according to NACE Executive Director Marilyn Mackes.
Even though a lot of noise is being made about putting (mostly lower-level) federal jobs out for private- sector bids, "the federal government is actually in a hiring mode, depending on the agencies," says Ms. Mackes. "As a whole, the federal sector is looking at a huge group of current employees retiring within the next five to 10 years."
Ms. Macken agrees. "Governmental agencies are recruiting at the college level to establish relationships with the schools," she says.
Smaller companies, rather than big-name, blue-chip employers, represent a bright spot in the hiring picture, according to Michael Cahill, director of the Syracuse University Center for Career Services. "The good news is that hiring by smaller employers is going up. Some of these companies might be under the radar, but they're expanding their workforce by 3 to 4 percent."
Job-seekers report that smaller companies are less likely to post openings on the Internet, but are often more accessible in person because they have fewer layers of management and bureaucracy.
"Students read and see the bad news about layoffs and employment and translate that into 'I'm not going to get a job.' That's not at all true."