College seniors are learning a hard lesson: It's tough to find a job when there are few available in a down economy.
The anemic job market for new grads is reflected in the drop in employer participation in local career fairs.
Paine College's career fair today will have representatives from 27 employers, down from 46 last year, said Deloris Croom, Paine's director of career services.
At Augusta State University, the Employer Expo on Feb. 20 usually features 75 to 100 employers, but this year, it's 55, said Julie Goley, the director of ASU's career center.
There are fewer opportunities for new teachers also: ASU's Educator Expo, set for Feb. 19, usually features representatives from 60 school systems, but this year 45 are signed up.
Students are having to step up their own efforts and take advantage of the career center and workshops more, Ms. Goley said.
Strategies include mapping out strengths, learning to use traditional networking opportunities such as inside contacts and using new online professional social networks such as LinkedIn to get a foot in the door.
In a move to get more access to job opportunities, Paine signed up for College Central Network, an online job posting site. Local job postings are administered through the college and national jobs are posted through the hosting site, Ms. Croom said.
Sharon Honore, a professor of mass communications at Paine, said students are being encouraged to get internships at a younger age -- starting in their freshman and sophomore years.
Lauren Crump, a sophomore in psychology at Paine, is confident that if she has enough experience, she'll land a job. She started as an industrial engineering major, but after trying it out at an internship, she switched to psychology.
Scott Shaw, a Paine economics professor, said students should focus on preparing for jobs that are available and making sure they have required credentials.
At Augusta Technical College, President Terry Elam said they've focused on long-term growing industries, such as health care and energy.
"We tell them you have to be at the top of the list now. Being a graduate is not enough," he said.
Ms. Goley said students can expect a three to four month search process in a good economy, but now she predicts six to 12 months. You have to be persistent, she said. "If you don't consistently put forth an effort, you won't see results."
Reach Sarah Day Owen at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics offers its Occupational Outlook Handbook online for free at www.bls.gov/oco. The handbook, published every two years, gives information about training and education needed for certain jobs, earnings and more.
CAREER FAIR: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. today, second floor of Peters Campus Center; bring rÃ©sumÃ©s and dress professionally; open to the public
AUGUSTA STATE UNIVERSITY will hold an Employer Expo and an Educator Expo. Aimed at Augusta State University students and alumni but open to the public. Bring rÃ©sumÃ©s and dress professionally.
EDUCATOR EXPO: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 19, Christenberry Fieldhouse, 3109 Wrightsboro Road; find a list of school systems attending at www.aug.edu/career_center
EMPLOYER EXPO : 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 20, Christenberry Field House, 3109 Wrightsboro Road; find a list of employers attending at www.aug.edu/career_center