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Recession affects potential jobs

John Tierney | Thursday, March 5, 2009

The economic recession is affecting students looking for jobs in a variety of industries, according to Ray Vander Heyden, assistant director for business career programs at the Notre Dame Career Center.

“This is affecting the whole economy, and a wide range of organizations,” he said.

Assistant Professor of Economics Abigail Wozniak agrees that the recession, which initially only affected the financial sector, is now an issue for the entire job market.

“What’s surprising is how wide ranging it has been,” Wozniak said, citing the effects of the recession on the consulting and legal industries.”

Both Vander Heyden and Wozniak also cited non-profits as being affected by the recession. “Funding isn’t flowing into non-profits as much,” Vander Heyden said.

Wozniak views the legal sector as another industry that will be hit by the recession because of its close relation to the financial sector.

“I think the financial sector is going to be different long-term,” she said. “The legal profession is somewhat tied to that. When you’re undertaking a lot of acquisitions, you need a lot of lawyers to help you with that. If you’re really on the fence and never really wanted to go to law school, you shouldn’t go because you can’t get a job,” she said.

Wozniak cites the healthcare and education sectors as ones that she sees with potential to grow. Growth in education would be helpful for the long-term future of the country, according to Wozniak, who is currently on leave from Notre Dame at Princeton University for the academic year.

“I really would like to see the United States commit itself to increasing education throughout its population. In terms of returning the U.S. to competitiveness with other countries, that’s the route we have to go,” she said. “It seems to be a sector that helps us in the long run and the short run.”

It’s important for students to consider opportunities in growing sectors, even if they would not have considered those options two years ago, Vander Heyden said.

“Students should look to apply their education to these [growing] fields,” he said, citing healthcare, energy and the federal government. “You can become an accountant for a hospital, instead of an accounting firm.”

Long-term outlook

Wozniak views the recession as being relevant for years to come.

“In terms of getting back to … where we were two years ago, that might take 10 years,” she said. “A 10-year recession would be extremely long, but a 10 year recovery is not at all unrealistic.”

Despite the pessimistic estimates, Wozniak said the current recession is not as bad as the recession of the early 1980s, at least according to unemployment numbers. “We have seen serious downturns in the past and we still have not reached those numbers,” she said. “There are a number of reasons to expect that growth won’t come back in the same way as in the 1980s, but the present still isn’t entirely unprecedented.”

While the current recession is often compared to the Great Depression, Wozniak said the recovery will not need to be as severe as it was in the 1930s. “We learned a lot from the Great Depression,” she said. “Even if the downturn does become that severe, the recovery will be a lot faster.”

What can I do?

Wozniak said current juniors looking to graduate in May 2010 will be the most affected by the recession. “They should think about a long-term strategy for themselves,” she said. “They should be thinking of a challenging labor market for the next five years and should ask: What can I do now to get on some sort of career trajectory?”

The job market no longer has a focus on high-paying, short-term careers, according to Wozniak.

“Any student who is thinking of going into a high-paying career temporarily should probably start thinking about how to get into what they really want to be doing right now,” she said. “I don’t think that’s going to ever come back. If students really want to go into teaching or something else, they should just start looking for jobs in those industries.”

Vander Heyden urges students to make sure that they are putting a good effort into their job searches.

“Positions are still out there for students with the time and energy to find them,” he said. “The economy is having an impact and it takes more time and energy.”

Notre Dame graduates have a leg up on graduates from peer institutions, Vander Heyden said.

“Our graduates are more well-rounded than their peers due to our method of education,” he said.

Notre Dame students are often more hard working than their peers and have “reasonable expectations,” according to Vander Heyden.

“They apply themselves and are quick learners,” he said.

Vander Heyden cited a survey of employers conducted about two and a half years ago as the source for his claims about Notre Dame graduates.

Wozniak agrees that Notre Dame students may have a better time finding jobs than other college graduates. “A Notre Dame candidate is potentially going to displace another candidate,” she said. “I wouldn’t say it’s the time to completely stop looking, especially for students coming out of a place like Notre Dame.”