Faltering Economy Affects Job Search for Class of ’09

Elisabeth Roche

When asked why they chose to attend college, 90 percent of undergraduates will tell you it was to obtain a degree to guarantee a good job.

Well, getting that job doesn’t look so easy anymore.

This past February, the U.S. unemployment rate hit 8.1 percent, and businesses throughout the country slashed 651,000 jobs. These staggering numbers are affecting current seniors who are searching for post-graduation employment.

The darkest days for the job market are inevitably still ahead. With spending weak and credit markets stalled, experts think the economy will probably shed a total of 2.4 million jobs this year. That would mean an unemployment rate above 9 percent.

The unemployment rate may not fall back to its pre-recession level of 5 percent until 2013.

“In general, it has been hard finding a job this year, and many of my friends in other majors and pursuing service opportunities, grad school or just taking time off,” senior finance major Matt Baker says.

Changes within the job market are inevitably trickling down and impacting Villanova students. The number of on-campus interviews conducted by the Campus Interview Program has decreased by twenty percent. The program brings companies to campus to interview graduating seniors and underclassmen, but statistics have dropped significantly in the past year.

In March of 2008, 2,531 interviews were conducted. This year, only 2,060 students have participated in this service. Attendance for the spring career fair was down, also by 20 percent.

Although the number of job postings online has remained constant, companies no longer can afford to travel to Villanova’s campus to interview students. According to Nancy Dudak, director of Career Services, companies are also looking to cut costs by offering more unpaid internships than in years past.

“More graduating seniors are applying for internships,” Dudak says. “They are seeing it as a nice place to hang temporarily, and a place to get more experience.”

Dudak believes the current weakened economy is affecting students more than inprevious years. Students within all the undergraduate schools are feeling the effects of the financial strain.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, a non-profit organization that provides research and education about the economy, an analysis of employment from 2000 to 2003 shows college graduates constitute 15.3 percent of total unemployment and unemployment among college-educated workers has increased by 299.4 percent.

Unlike years before, they are competing with thousands of unemployed adults who are also looking for work.

“Higher unemployment has caused more experienced professionals to be looking for work,” Baker says. “In desperate times, these people will be willing to take a significant pay cut to make ends meet. As a result, not only are college graduates competing against other students for jobs, but also those that have already been in the workforce for a number of years.”

With the difficulties in the current economy, Career Services has seen a 30 percent increase in students attending informational events. These students are looking to these events to ask valuable advice about seeking a job in the volatile job market. There has also been an increase in the numbers of seniors applying to graduate schools.

“Students were going to go [to graduate school] anyways,” Dudak says. “Instead of going in two or three years, they are going now.”

Students are also looking toward service opportunities for post-graduation plans, with many choosing to dedicate themselves to helping the less fortunate after they complete their senior year.

“I have met with more people this year than last who are considering a year of service,” says Barbara Haenn, the associate director of Campus Ministry. Haenn is also in charge of the Senior Post-Grad Volunteer Program.

“They seem to be weighing all options available,” Haenn adds. “The fact that volunteer positions are ‘real jobs’ can lead a senior to know that they will gain some valuable experience while helping others.”

In addition to students using the resources of Career Services, the number of alumni using these same resources is on the rise. A new program has just been purchased to help alumni search for new jobs. Alumni can post their resume online and look through listings to find jobs.

With the lack of available jobs and internships, Dudak addresses the challenge of students looking to earn money over the summer but also gain “real world” experience with an internship. She recommends that students attempt to do both.

Instead of interning unpaid five days a week, students can find a part time job – like lifeguarding or waitressing. Students can spend two or three days at their part time jobs each week, and intern during the remainder of the week. By doing this, students will gain work experience while making a steady income.