Economic crisis impacts student job search
Robert Singer | Thursday, April 16, 2009
About 24 percent of Notre Dame graduates will still be seeking employment following the ceremony in May – doubling the 12 percent of the class of 2008 who were in limbo after graduation – according to an estimate made by Career Center Director Lee Svete.
When the economy is growing, a typical Notre Dame senior could expect a job offer after interviewing with six to eight companies, but in the current downturn, that number might be 15 to 20, Svete said. However, this number will probably become more favorable as graduation approaches, as other job candidates give up and companies can more easily identify their needs with a closer start date.
Svete mentioned two reasons for why companies are cutting back.
“They’ve lost revenue and as a result their budget has been decreased,” Svete said. “There’s been very little attrition at companies. Senior employees are deciding to stick around at their jobs, causing a chain reaction.”
After the financial crisis devastated retirement accounts, many older employees decided to postpone retirement, taking away positions from college graduates – sometimes multiple positions, as their salaries can triple those for entry level positions.
This trend did not keep senior Zach Mady from securing an engineering position with Lockheed Martin in November 2008.
“The engineering market is dominated by older generations of people,” Mady said “There are a larger number of people retiring in the field than ever before.”
But even as the banking, consulting, architecture, accounting, real estate and retail sectors are shrinking, other industries are expanding, according to Svete. He attributed some of this expansion to the effects of the stimulus package.
Svete said the stimulus is already having an impact, especially in “infrastructure.”
“The federal government is hiring – civil engineers, social services, and health care,” Svete said.
Other fields that have shown promise for graduating seniors despite the recession are green energy, computer technology, software development, biotechnology and engineering firms with defense contracts, Svete said.
“I interviewed with Lockheed Martin for a summer internship two years ago,” Mady said. “They liked my work that summer so they retained me for another summer and again I did a serviceable job. So, I actually applied before the summer was over. I had an offer in November and was secure in my job.”
Green energy will be a booming field due to the stimulus, but students must be “geographically diverse” when it comes to considering their career options, Svete said, referencing a large solar panel manufacturing plant in Arizona.
The alternative energy industry isn’t the only “alternative” career path that has grown this year for seniors. According to Svete, the number of students who complete volunteer service after graduation could grow from an average of 200 for past years to 290 for this year, but postponing a conventional career by doing service isn’t a career interruption – it’s an enhancement.
“As a result, our graduates are much more versatile than graduates from other schools,” Svete said. “Ethics and integrity are among the top-ranked traits that employers look for.”
Other students, such as senior Jimmy Champlin, decided to attend graduate or professional school and look for permanent employment when the economy is hopefully more stable.
After considering the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program, Champlin opted for law school, since he thought a political science major would mostly limit him to government jobs.
“That way I can push back needing a job three years,” Champlin said.
With an abundance of service opportunities and options for graduate school as well as an expected recovery of the economy, students should not reconsider their desired academic majors to make themselves more attractive job candidates, according to Svete.
“Economies are cyclical and to make a short-term decision based on vocation rather than passion is the wrong decision,” he said.