US grads' job expectations on hold
The class of 2009 makes adjustments in the face of a dearth of jobs and increasing interest rates on student loans and credit cards.
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CERI’s 2009 collegiate hiring report calls the entry-level job market a place of “quiet desperation.” Seven percent of the companies surveyed say they won’t hire anyone out of college this year – more than double the 2008 number. And 49 percent of companies say they’ll take fewer college grads this year than last.Skip to next paragraph
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That means, career advisers say, that this year’s graduating class may have to change more than its spending habits. It may be time for a seismic shift in this generation’s sense of entitlement.
“They’re going to have to deal with a lot of rejection, and it’s this generation ... that hasn’t had to deal with much of that in their lifetime,” says Caroline Ceniza-Levine of SixFigureStart, a career consulting service. “The survival jobs – working at J Crew, bartending – those jobs are tough. It’s very competitive now to get a job at Starbucks. Experienced people are fighting for these retail jobs to stay afloat.”
[Editor's note: This company's name was corrected.]
And there’s another problem young grads face: a backlog of baby boomers.
Mr. Gardner says that even in recent economic downturns, college grads got offers because companies wanted to be ready for the boomer retirement exodus. “Boomers ... have put that card away for awhile,” he says. “They simply aren’t retiring, and they aren’t giving any indication of when they are going to retire.”
But some students say the collision of macro-level circumstances gives them some choices they didn’t expect.
Ellen Erikson, a photography major at Seattle University, says the economic uncertainty frees her to think about taking a teaching fellowship in Austria, or joining the Peace Corps. Nomin Chuluunkhuu, a senior at the University of San Francisco, is planning to open a pub in her native Mongolia. Scotty Fay, who graduated in December from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, is waiting for Peace Corps marching orders, hoping to ride out the next 27 months practicing French and teaching biology in Guinea.
Mark Cannice, who runs the entrepreneurship program at the business school of the University of San Francisco, says Ms. Chuluunkhuu is not alone. His students, he says, are sensing that “any implicit contract between employers and employees” isn’t as strong as it used to be, which makes “the risk of entrepreneurship relative to a corporate job ... not as great as it may have seemed a year ago.”
Students say that none of the looming challenges will feel real until they’ve donned the cap and gown. “We’re a little bit in a bubble of college and [the economic situation] isn’t really a reality yet,” says Chloe Chessen, a psychology major in Seattle.
Ms. Fay says she wouldn’t worry about the job market even if she didn’t have a Peace Corps placement. “I don’t think we’ve realized how bad it is because we’re so cushioned,” she says of herself and her three brothers, all in college. “That comfort comes from knowing that if we excel and we’re able to keep ourselves working, we’ll be OK, we hope, because we haven’t experienced anything different than that,” says Fay, who worked two jobs on top of her full-time course load.
Whitfield says student optimism, like so much about the impact of the economic crisis, is all relative. The feeling on his campus, he says, is that most seniors are fortunate to live in Louisiana, where collegiate hires haven’t dropped as quickly as they have elsewhere.
“We’re not recession-proof,” he says, but adds gratefully, “We’re not Detroit down here.”