Searching for a job in a tough economy may require compromise

October 20, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- The news continues to be painful: The U.S. economy is struggling to rebound, major companies are laying off employees by the thousands, and the jobless rate has inched toward 10 percent.

For students who have recently graduated or those approaching graduation this winter or next spring, those headlines are particularly foreboding. In this economic climate, finding a job might seem like an impossible task.

But it’s really not, according to Jack Rayman, senior director of Penn State's Career Services Center.

"One of the things I always suggest to students is that career choice is often a compromise,” he said. “What is ideal for the individual and what is ideal for the organization is seldom congruent. Sometimes a job search is a time to compromise in a whole range of different dimensions.”

Rayman added that compromise comes in all different shapes and forms. It can range from reordering priorities to shifting initial expectations.

"First, if you can do a specific type of work, then you're capable of doing other kinds of work as well,” he said. “Second, sometimes you have to compromise in terms of the industry you work in. Your goal might be to work in the electronics or finance industry, but if there are no jobs in these industries you may have to look at other industries as well, including government positions.

"Third, the starting salary people have in mind may require compromise. In some cases you might have to compromise all the way to volunteer work. But we caution to not do it casually."

Many students plunge into the murky job market targeting a specific job in a specific sector of the economy. In times such as these, many have to realize that their narrow focus may need to be broadened.

"The type of industry can be a compromise, from the profit-making to nonprofit sector. There's also a geographic compromise. A lot of Penn State grads want to live within a half a day's drive of Beaver Stadium -- that's a fact,” Rayman said. “The reality is sometimes you have to move to areas where the job market is better than Pennsylvania's and the population is still growing.”

"Another option may be to go to graduate or professional school. In difficult economic times, it might be advantageous to upgrade your skills."

Searching for a job is often an anxious undertaking, but in a tough economy it can be frustrating and demoralizing. That's why Rayman and his colleagues at Career Services have produced a five-page handout that details different job search strategies for tough economic times.

"Job Search Tips for a Tough Economy" is broken down into seven categories, with specific tips and advice in each. Those categories include: selling your skills/experience, networking, consider all options, follow through, flexibility/compromise, things to avoid and encouragement.

The information included in the handout was compiled from a group of 30 directors of the largest university career centers in the nation. A pdf of the handout is available to download at

In addition, those students still on or near the University Park campus can take advantage of Career Services' drop-in counseling, which is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays. Additional services are available at or by calling Career Services at (814) 865-2377.

Until a student finds a first job, Rayman stressed that any job search should be treated as a job itself. And, he said, in rare cases a student may need to take any job, at least initially.

"That depends on a student's circumstances. If a student is really destitute, and some kids are, they may have to do that," he said. "But we recommend against just taking anything. It can make it difficult to move from there. In some circumstances you should do it, but you have to be careful."


Last Updated April 18, 2017