Job market slowly improving for recent CSU graduates

CSU seniors looking for a job after graduation have reason to be cautiously optimistic.

A gradual decline in the national unemployment rate along with a projected five percent increase from last year in hiring of newly minted bachelor degree recipients shows better prospects than when this year’s graduating class entered college as freshmen in 2009, when job prospects had plummeted from previous years.

The national unemployment rate has been slowly but steadily decreasing. In December it sat at 7.8 percent, down from 8.5 percent a year earlier.

Stephanie Miller, a senior apparel design major, scored a highly-coveted internship this spring working with Crystal B Designs in Chicago.

Miller attributes landing the internship to building a professional resume, networking, attending fashion shows and spending “every second of every day” in the design lab on campus.

During an interview via Skype, the owner asked Miller if she would come work with her in Chicago.

“I’m having the best internship I could ever dream of,” Miller said.

When she comes back to Colorado and graduates this spring, Miller has a few tentative offers for internships or part time work at design houses on the front range. One, with Fallene Wells of Denver, she hopes could turn into a full time job.

Overall, she’s optimistic about finding work and parlaying her CSU education into a career.

“It’s still a relatively small industry in Colorado,” Miller said. “New York is known for fashion, Denver is known for cowboy boots. I want to help in changing peoples minds outside of Colorado and say ‘look, we have some great designers and fashion.’”

Although some benchmarks for employment are slowly improving, at least one key area from last year has fallen by almost half.

According to a national survey of 4,300 employers released last Fall by the Collegiate Employment Research Institute (CERI), only 22 percent of full-time hiring managers were sure of their hiring plans, compared to 42 percent the same time last year.

Phil Gardner, director of CERI at Michigan State University, attributes the sharp decline in hiring plans to gridlock in Washington, D.C over budget issues, which causes uncertainty in the marketplace and affects hiring practices.

“The decline in certainty can be laid on the doorstep of Washington,” Gardener wrote in an email to the Collegian. “So the longer decisions are delayed in DC the longer we have to wait until job growth begins to solidify.”

Regardless of the problems in Washington and a slower than expected economic recovery, the job market continues to slowly improve, “clawing” its way back to pre-recession levels, Gardner wrote in the report.

“While the number of opportunities may be insufficient to provide every new graduate a meaningful position,” Gardner wrote, “the expansion continues to whittle away at the number having to enter part-time or non-career employment.”

CSU students hoping to land a job after graduation will have better chances if they start planning early in their education and use the resources at the CSU Career Center, said Chase Weldon, a counselor at the Career Center.

A career fair at the Student Center Feb. 5 and 6 will be the largest event of its kind this semester and will allow students to meet employers and in some cases interview on the spot.

“Come with your resume in hand and dressed like you would a job interview,” Weldon said.

The Career Center hosts job fairs, helps with resumes and cover letters, assists with interview preparation, keeps track of current hiring trends and works with students to develop a comprehensive career plan.

According to Weldon, the best strategy is to approach a job search as an ongoing project or class with different components: resume, interviewing, internships and networking. All are equally important and have to be kept up to date.

“The sooner you can start the process the better,” said Weldon. “There’ll be less stress as that student walks across the stage if they at least have an idea of what’s out there.”

Brook LaBossiere, a senior human development and family studies major, used the Career Center to create a targeted resume but she hasn’t been sending it out to employers.

Instead, LaBossiere is foregoing the job hunt and is anxiously waiting to hear back from the University of New England in Portland, Maine about acceptance into a graduate program in occupational therapy.

She plans to pursue that degree into a doctorate program at Baylor followed by a stint in the  Army using her medical degree to help wounded soldiers get rehabilitated.

Regardless of what happens after grad school, she’s confident of being able to find employment with her degree.

“I know I’ll find a job as soon as I’m certified,” said LaBossiere.

Many industry observers advise recent graduates to be realistic about the amount of money they’re going to make right out of college and that their dream job probably isn’t going to be the first job they find.

“The most troubling aspect of this year’s report is the consistent and damning rhetoric from employers that students’ sense of entitlement, expectations, and level of preparedness is totally out of sync with the reality of the workplace,” wrote Gardner in the report’s conclusion.

The survey found the average starting salary for recent graduates is $37,000 a year, with electrical engineers topping the list at $52,307 and those with a psychology undergrad degree finding themselves last at $33,505 per year.

Senior Reporter Austin Briggs can be reached at news@collegian.com.