A Challenging Outlook

You’ve spent four – OK, six, but who’s counting – years listening to the daily drone of professors. You’ve managed to raise your grade point average high enough to brag about it on your resumé. You’ve spent your last night studying, completed your last teacher evaluation, taken your last exam. It’s only a matter of days before you’re sporting the cap and gown, walking down the aisle at the Sun Dome.

And you’re still looking for a job.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the job market for college graduates is tougher than it’s been in more than three years. The association publishes the results from its annual Job Outlook survey, and this year’s is rough – but not dismal.

“We hear from both employers and students that there are just not as many opportunities for students to get jobs,” said Drema Howard, director for the USF Career Center. “The labor market, unlike past years, is filled with seasoned, experienced workers also looking for entry-level positions.”

Employers see the seasoned workers as a means to get exceptional work for little money, she said. One employer told her that the company is then “getting well-beyond what (it’s) paying for.”

According to the Job Outlook 2002 survey, job opportunities will be available, but they will be fewer in number than previous years.

In addition, the job market is forcing many companies to adapt to a hiring freeze – and in many cases, layoffs. Hiring cuts are reportedly biggest among employers who hired large numbers of new college graduates last year.


While the job market is bumpy all around, there are certain industries that are being forced to tighten their belts a few notches more than others. For example, the Job Outlook 2002 survey reports that communications companies and financial services firms expect their hiring will be “fair” to “poor.”

Hiring plans among service employers are expected to be down more than 24 percent. The outlook is worst for manufacturers, who expect their hiring to include at least 30-percent fewer college graduates.

On the other hand, the poor economy’s hit on the high-tech industry has not affected its jobs. Computer science and various forms of engineering remain at the top of the list of jobs that are still in demand.

Government and nonprofit organizations also project more than a 20-percent increase in college hiring, as do federal government agencies and public accounting firms.

So what does this mean to a music or religious studies major? According to Howard, it only means that the job search must be more persistent.

“Search longer. That’s made all the difference for many of the students who visit us,” she said. “And it’s important not to be discouraged.”

Students often make the assumption, she said, that the only positions available are the ones advertised. In reality, companies often have more openings.

Another mistake she said students make is that they assume sending a resumé is enough.

“Sending a resumé is not enough. It’s also important for students to look at all their options and not just target one or two areas,” she said. “They need to have a number of sites in different industries they can target.”

The results of the Job Outlook 2002 survey concur with Howard’s suggestion. When employers were asked what qualities are important in new college graduates, flexibility and adaptability were among the top 10.


For the student deciding to take a new approach to the after-college job search, Howard makes a few suggestions.

“Graduates can still use the services at the USF Career Center at no cost for up to six months after graduation,” she said. The recent graduates can continue working with career representatives who specialize in their major, as well as take advantage of the department’s resumé referral service, which supplies students’ resumés to prospective employers, she said.In addition to the university career specialists, the Job Outlook 2002 also suggests a few ways that employers find their new hires. Organization internships are at the top of the list, followed closely by employee referrals.

“Students really should let people know they’re looking for positions,” Howard said. “It can be family members, friends, even places where they do business. Anything that can give them a lead.”

In addition, the survey reports that employers look for potential new hires through Internet job postings – both through their own company Web site as well as university job listing sites, such as USF Career Center’s site.

It’s also important, Howard said, to attend career and job fairs. A good opportunity is at the Statewide Job Fair, to be held May 9 at the University of Central Florida Arena in Orlando. The fair is a collaborative effort between all the state universities and presents an opportunity for recent college graduates to talk with employers looking for full-time professionals.

“You need to continue to make contacts, be persistent and look at all of their options,” Howard said. “Don’t just assume there’s nothing out there.”

Contact Danielle Ritchieat oraclefeaturees@yahoo.com