October 13, 2003

Forth-years face shaky job market

John Holland, a fourth-year in the College, is not too worried about getting a job next year.

Though an excellent student and a candidate for a Rhodes Scholarship, he does not attribute his relative lack of worry to his academic record.

Holland spent the last two summers working in finance, has spent time making ample job connections in that field, and, perhaps most importantly, he has kept in contact with them.

"It's important to start early," Holland said. "I feel pretty good about the way I have done things because I was careful to start early and focus my search."

The Labor Department reported on October 3 that the unemployment rate remained at 6.1 percent in September. However, these new jobs have not been enough to offset the growth in the number of people looking for work.

As labor statistics remain stagnant, the University is working hard to make sure its graduates are as prepared as possible to attract attention from potential employers. The University has emphasized several important lessons in landing a job, the most important of which is to maintain essential contacts and learn to sell oneself.

The Forth-Year Kickoff, which took place two weeks ago on the first day of classes, was the beginning of what will be a major yearlong effort by Career and Placement Services (CAPS), in conjunction with the College Programming Office, Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities (ORCSA), and the dean of students in the College. At the event, students were shown the results of a survey completed by the class of 2003.

The survey stated that 44 percent of the graduating class didn't know what they would be doing after graduation. The figure is comparable to peer institutions, but the University wants to help students to be as prepared for the job search process as they can be.

"Providing students with more information and a sense of the job market is one of the ways we are trying to provide better support to seniors," said Bill Michel, assistant vice president for student life. "We are continuing to increase our efforts to reach out to alumni to ask them to help us in these efforts."

According to Liz Michaels, director of CAPS, the biggest mistake a student can make is "not knowing what you want to do and why you want to do it. "[Saying] I just want a job or an internship won't do it," Michaels said. "Know what you want to do."

Employers are starting to come back to campus to look for prospective employees. However, it's a world removed from 1998 when it seemed as if jobs were being handed out on the street.

Alumni that are familiar with the job market say that the consulting business—a popular profession for new graduates—is still shaky, though the finance market is beginning to rebound.

At the conference, University administrators stressed to students that their education is a valuable thing and carries considerable weight in the professional world.

CAPS's survey of the class of 2003 makes clear the importance of networking. Of the students who found work, 39 percent used a personnel connection and 29 percent used a campus contact.

Michaels said that, overall, the University network includes some 150,000 people, and that the University itself is the third-largest employer of its own graduating class.

"We want to stress how important it is to make contacts," Michaels said. "What we're trying to do at CAPS is to facilitate making those networks."

In a bleak job market every bit helps. As Holland will attest, it is much less stressful to worry about finding a job now as opposed to next summer.

"I'm trying to get a job," Holland said. "But I don't think I'm going to have to try as much as a lot of people."

This week CAPS has a full schedule in store for students. Yesterday it hosted a résumé workshop and information session on how to work the Fall Career Fair.

The Fall Career fair will start at noon in Ida Noyes Hall on Wednesday. CAPS recommends that you dress in business attire and bring a résumé.