This past Sunday, our new marketing intern Dana and I were featured in the Business section of the SF Chronicle in an article called Tough Job Market Requires that Grads Adjust.
The article is copied below, but I’d suggest you also check out the comments. Clearly, the job market is a hot topic – the comments range from fiery to frustrated to constructive. Lots of people suggested that recent graduates who are having trouble finding a job go start their own business. While I do know several friends who’ve been laid off and started in on their own projects, some of the same problems persist: recent grads’ networks aren’t as strong for funding and business support, they have a tougher time convincing investors they’re serious, and they don’t have the savings to back up the ventures on their own.
What this article is really about, then, is bootstrapping — that recent graduates are having to come up with creative ways to stay afloat and to pursue what they’re passionate about. That might mean working for free 3 days a week while supplementing with a restaurant or childcare job; it might mean working nights on getting a business up and running; or it might mean going back to school to get some more targeted experience.
For some of our job advice for recent grads, click here.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Stanford graduate John Dryden didn’t have a job lined up before he got his diploma in June, but in this economy he feels lucky to have been offered a contract post.
“I look at it as a case where the glass is half full,” said Dryden, 22, a business major who had an internship last summer that, in better times, would have led to a job.
“The company has a hiring freeze but they’re still interested in bringing me back in the fall, not as a full-time employee with benefits but as a contractor,” Dryden said, adding, “I feel very fortunate.”
Young people nationwide are being forced to adjust their expectations and try new tactics as recent college graduates face the toughest job hunt in decades.
“The current situation compares to the early 1980s, which was also an extremely difficult job market for college graduates,” said Edwin Koc, research director for the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
The association regularly surveys the nation’s largest employers about their plans to hire graduating seniors.
“Typically we have a positive story with an annual increase in the number of hires,” Koc said. “But when we asked employers what they expected to hire from this graduating class relative to last year, it was down 22 percent.”
The association also asked a sample of this year’s 1.6 million college seniors about their employment prospects and discovered a sharp drop from a prior poll.
“In 2007 when we surveyed students, over 50 percent of the class had a job offer before graduation,” Koc said. “This year it was 19.7 percent.”
Desiree Fabunan, 23, is one of those who beat the odds by getting a job with AT&T’s Western Region headquarters in San Ramon before graduating from Stanford in June.
“A lot of people were down in the dumps,” Fabunan said, recalling the mood on campus. “Back in January, people were really panicking because you know that at Stanford so many of the grads that had come before you had jobs by that time.”
Dana Lin, a recent college graduate who lives in Mountain View, said employers in this market are demanding more than a degree.
“Many jobs call for three or four or five years of work experience,” said Lin, 22, who earned her undergraduate degree in business from Cornell University in 2008.
Back then, when the college job market was still strong, she got a marketing position with a Silicon Valley software firm. But she was laid off in April. To bolster her brief work experience, Lin is doing a part-time, unpaid internship with the San Francisco startup Bright Green Talent, a recruiting and staffing agency for the sustainable energy industry.
“We did not have much of a problem taking these internships when we were in college,” Lin said. “It allows me to learn new things in new areas.”
At Bright Green Talent, Lin works with full-time employee Carolyn Mansfield, a 2008 Stanford graduate who found that, even then, her anthropology degree didn’t impress employers. She also worked for free to gain experience, first as an unpaid media intern for the Sierra Club and later at Bright Green Talent, which hired her after a two-month trial period.
“It’s about getting your foot in the door and letting employers see your work ethic and how you perform on the job,” Mansfield said.
But while young college graduates face a tough job market now, long-term trends work in their favor.
“Many employers can forecast a large number of retirements coming up in the next three to five years,” said Tom Devlin, career center director at UC Berkeley.
Positions will open
Koc, the employment expert, said this retirement trend means positions will open up for young college graduates once the recession ends even if the recovery is too weak to create job growth.
But at the moment the circumstances are less favorable.
“Opportunities that may have been there in the past have not been as plentiful for our graduating class,” said Dryden, the Stanford alumnus.
E-mail Tom Abate at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared on page D – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle