Originally created 05/16/03

Job search tests new graduates



A week after graduating from the University of South Carolina Aiken, Derek Weaver spent Thursday afternoon waiting by the phone for a job.

Newly armed with a degree in exercise science, the 22-year-old Leesville, S.C., man was hoping for a call back from the Hitchcock Rehabilitation Center, where he had turned in his resume.

It has been one of his few job leads during a prolonged employment slump facing the country's newest crop of college graduates.

"I hear about jobs, and I hear they're out there. But I have a problem with them getting back to me," said Mr. Weaver, who is considering working as a personal trainer at a gym. "Right now, I'm just trying to get some money."

Employers plan to hire the same number of college graduates as they did last year, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

That's not encouraging to new graduates. Job offers dropped last year - by 36 percent - for the first time since the association began surveying corporations in 1991.

"It's certainly an indication that times are going to remain difficult," said Camille Luckenbaugh, the association's employment information manager.

While manufacturing, government and nonprofit sectors reported the steepest cuts compared with last year's hiring levels, some fields still hold promise for graduates.

Demand for nurses and teachers remains strong, according to local college officials.

Paine College President Shirley Lewis said all 12 recent graduates who majored or minored in education received offers in Georgia.

But recruitment across the board has been slow for students, who often dread the job-seeking process even under the best circumstances.

"Certainly in a bad economy it wears on their self-esteem and the value of what a student feels like they have to offer," said Julie Goley, the director of Augusta State University's Career Center. "We've certainly seen an increase in just counseling load in helping graduates manage the stress."

With the unemployment for people between the ages 20 and 24 at 10 percent - compared with 6 percent for the entire work force - many are turning to graduate schools and delaying the job hunt.

Meanwhile, those with another year of college left are optimistic that hiring levels might turn around before it's their turn.

"It's definitely something you think about," said Chad Becker, a junior at Georgia State University who wants a job in money or asset management after graduating next spring. "I'm hoping for the best, but I'm also actively doing things to ensure that I'll have something when I get out."

SEARCH TIPS

Marilyn Mackes, the executive director of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, offers the following suggestions to college students looking to enter the job market:

  • Check out a prospective employer before the job interview: "Each year, employers cite researching the organization as the single most important piece of advice they can offer candidates."
  • Before accepting a position, look at other factors beyond salary, including the work environment, corporate culture and stability.
  • Obtain relevant work experience, preferably in an internship or cooperative studies program: "Many employers turn first to their own interns and co-op students when they have jobs available."
  • - Associated Press

    Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227 or vicky.eckenrode@augustachronicle.com.