Despite economy, college graduates will still find work opportunities

February 17, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- Right now, the class of 2009 may be focused on snowy school days or spring break destinations, but soon they will have to switch gears and concentrate on life after college. A rickety economy coupled with high unemployment rates may make the future seem daunting.

"We're definitely feeling it, we don't have as many recruiters coming to campus this year as last year," said Jack Rayman, senior director of Penn State Career Services and affiliate professor of education, about how the economy is affecting Career Services. "But, the career fair for the spring looks good. There are some areas that are still strong: technical and IT fields, engineering and accounting."

While Rayman admitted some of what he termed "softer" fields -- marketing, management, retail and finance -- are down, he is optimistic about the availability of job opportunities for college graduates.

"The unemployment rate is down 8.5 percent so it's tough out there, but I still expect most baccalaureate holders to get a job. In comparison, the unemployment rate for them is 3.2 percent," Rayman said. "Having your degree gives you advantages over those that don't."

The key to finding a job, Rayman said, is being open-minded and creative. For instance, he knows there are parts of the country that are faring better than other areas. Graduates need to be open to the thought of relocating instead of going home to the small town where they grew up. Their hometown may not offer many job possibilities, or they might have to make compromises on the type of job they accept and/or the salary they are offered. Rayman also recommended that graduates start thinking more broadly about their skills and the fields they qualify for but never considered, as well as industries they never examined before.

"People never consider government jobs, but you can do just about anything you would in the private sector for the government. There are a lot of people retiring from jobs in the government; it's a strong field to look into right now," said Rayman.

Another successful job-finding component, Rayman suggested, is being willing to start at an entry-level position. Students who go through rigorous engineering or science programs tend to believe they have worked their way past an entry-level position because of course work, internships and other professional experiences they gained in college. He recommended all students be flexible about job positions right after graduation.

Students also need to work hard at job searches, which Rayman said can be like a job itself. The Bank of America Career Services Center is not seeing as many companies coming in to recruit new employees as in past years. He said students should come into the Career Services Center for career counseling and workshops to prepare for life after graduation. Job sites like Monster.com are fine to use as a resource but are more of a passive way to look for employment. Job seekers must actively engage in job hunting.

"It's rare for people to be hired sight unseen," said Rayman. "Usually it's best to decide what region you want to work in, go there and actively look. Leave resumes at various companies, tell people you know you're looking and pass your resume out to everyone. Generally speaking, it's easier to find something in a metropolitan area than in a small town."

Networking is always a key factor in finding a job. Students should take advantage of LionLink while in school and use their connections while looking for employment. The Career Services Center offers a variety of resources to current students and alumni. From career fairs to drop-in counseling, outreach programming and other services, programs and resources, students can start planning for their future as early as their freshman year.

  • Penn State's Career Services Center offers drop-in assistance for resume review, career research and planning, job search strategies and other profession-related assistance.

    IMAGE: Greg Grieco
Last Updated November 18, 2010