NEWS

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April 12, 2005

Graduating seniors attend fair in mad search for jobs

As graduation approaches, fourth-year in the College Matthew Talbot remains without a job—and he's getting anxious. "At this point I'm going to take what I can get because I feel a lot of pressure," he said. This mounting pressure has led Talbot and other students in the same situation to lower their job-hunting expectations.

"As we're getting closer to graduation, I'm willing to take whatever I can get. If I graduate unemployed, I have to move back to New Jersey," Talbot said, while at the Hire Big 10 Plus Career Fair last Friday at Ida Noyes. "And I'd rather not do that."

While Talbot and his fellow students may be newcomers to the labor market, economists are familiar with the ebb and flow of job hunters' expectations. They use the term "reservation price" to describe the minimum salary at which job-seekers accept offers, connecting this theoretical—and often fluid—price to other market factors, such as unemployment levels.

Talbot, who started his job search at the beginning of March using the University's website and Craigslist, a website hosting local communities' classified ads, said his standards have dropped significantly over the year. Despite this, Talbot has a reservation price he won't go beneath.

"There's still some point, some line in the sand," Talbot said. "I don't know about flipping burgers at McDonald's. I need health and dental [insurance], and to be able to afford rent in Hyde Park."

Tony Ye, a Ph.D. student from Indiana University who has at least another year of school left, is looking for a job in business and telecommunications. "As an international student, I should start my search much earlier than American students," said Ye, who is originally from China.

"I'm on the more patient side," he said. "I won't take a job that I don't like. That's why I start early, so I'll have more options, more opportunities."

But if Ye doesn't have a job by this time next year, he will become very impatient. "I'll take anything I can get," Ye said.

Along with the students still seeking jobs, some recruiters' expectations have changed. Recruiters said that as the year has progressed, the type of job-seeking student has changed. "Many of the top quality students came through in the fall," said Shannon Miller, a recruiter for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. "I wouldn't say that the students looking around now are desperate. It's just getting to the point where it's close to graduation, and they really want a job."

Miller was manning a table at the fair, which was sponsored by the Big 10 Plus Career Center Consortium. She said that starting salaries have not changed during the course of the year. "Our positions pay by commission," Miller said. "They all start the same."

She advised students that they start the search earlier. "Fall is the time to push," she said. "You can tell, the students now, they're putting a lot more emphasis on selling themselves."

Career Advising and Planning Services (CAPS) officials insisted that the approximately 50 companies recruiting at the fair were serious about hiring graduating students. According to Meredith Daw, associate director of recruiting for CAPS, firms recruiting at the University in the spring have the same expectations as those visiting in the fall. "If you're not going to hire in the spring, you're not going to be here now," she said.

According to Daw, different industries hire at different times of the year, and salary differences are related to industry differences. "Companies don't differ their salaries along the time of year," she said.

To avoid unemployment, students may jump at offers far before deadlines, selling themselves short. One job recruiter reminded students to take their time in selecting a position by starting their search early in the year but not feeling obligated to finalize plans too early.

"Don't feel pressured to commit in the fall," said Elizabeth Rende, campus recruitment manager for AON, a brokerage firm. "We have 35 positions to fill—positions that weren't developed in the fall because we weren't yet prepared to complete our hiring for the next year."

Rende said she sees differences between the types of students looking for work over the school year but does not view this as unfavorable. "The students in the fall are highly motivated individuals," she said. "The students in the spring are waiting longer."