Careers in 2009

When child services provider Beech Brook signed up for Notre Dame’s annual Career Fair, the company was looking for new employees. But starting in December 2008, the government funded agency began to feel the effects of the slowing economy. With the tightening of federal and state money, the Pepper Pike-based organization limited itself to gathering resumes and looking for interns at the job fair on February 20.

“Instead of over-hiring and staffing up, we are really held close to our numbers. We’ve had to hold off on some of the hiring and utilize the people that we have,” said Recruitment Manager Beth Manchik. “We still have positions open, but not like we had six months ago.”

Senior Jonathan Picken is looking for that first job after college.Manchik’s words may sound familiar to many of the estimated 1.5 million college graduates earning their bachelor degrees in the U.S. this year. As most of them will attempt to enter the job market, the competition is fierce. With unemployment rates climbing across the country, college graduates not only compete with each other but also with a rising number of more experienced laid-off personnel. In Ohio, the jobless rate jumped to 8.8 percent in January, a record high in 23 years. From December to January the unemployment rate increased nearly 19 percent, the Department of Job and Family Services reported. Employers are expected to hire 22 percent fewer graduates this year than they did in 2008, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

But while colleges across the country are reporting fewer on-campus visits by recruiters, not all is doom and gloom, says Notre Dame’s Director of Career Services Kim Lane. Together with Career Services Coordinator Jennifer Archable, Lane teaches NDC students how to be marketable in a competitive job market. Aside from fine tuning resumes and prepping students for interviews, Lane tells them to think outside the box when hunting for a job. She is sure, “There’s still a hidden job market.”

At the College’s 27th annual Career Fair, Notre Dame students got a glimpse of that market. Recruiters from 30 businesses met with 72 students in the College’s Murphy Gymnasium. Among them were representatives from government agencies (Secret Service), the health care sector (University Hospitals), the financial industry (National City Bank), and insurance companies (Aflac). “Those are the segments of industry at least in Northeast Ohio that are still somewhat in the game,” says Lane.

Recruiters from these companies confirmed Lane’s assessment. Aflac is “hiring all the time,” said Regional Sales Coordinator Jeff Makowski. With companies cutting back on benefits Aflac’s supplemental health policies are a “recession-proof product,” Makowski said. His company hires graduates right after college provided they have the necessary communication skills. National City branch manager Alexis Suter said the bank was also actively looking for graduates of any major to enter a 2-year retail management training program and become a branch manager. “You always need somebody to work in the bank. This position is not going out of style regardless of the economy.”

Senior Kevin Raleigh interviewed for an accounting job.But in a recession college graduates can no longer afford to simply submit a resume and wait for an interview. “You literally have to have a hundred different things going on,” Lane says. “You can’t just throw your resume out on and hope it sticks. It’s too much competition that way.” Lane suggests students bypass the human resource departments and directly ask an employee of a desired company for an informational interview and the opportunity to shadow. “Students need to find out what their passion is and go for it and talk to people,” Lane says.

Lane stresses that students must do research and have an idea of their skills and interests to identify potential career paths. “The worst thing I hear from a student is ‘I want any job,’” Lane says. Job seekers need to show they are excited about working at a certain company. Integrity, work ethic, curiosity and confidence are more important to recruiters than specialized knowledge, says Lane. Recruiters know Notre Dame graduates are able to think critically, write well and speak intelligently. But sometimes students think they have no skills, Lane says. “They just need to step up and say ‘I do have these skill sets and I can use them in different places and think outside the box.’” That also means approaching a variety of companies. “If I am an accounting major and I see the Cleveland Clinic here, could you not talk about their marketing department or their finance department, and make those contacts?”

Above all, students have to manage their expectations, Lane says. “You most likely will not receive a starting salary of $50,000 a year.” It might take up to nine months before graduates even find that first full-time position. Rejections are part of the game. Even landing internships and co-ops has become highly competitive. Lane says many students make the mistake of not starting the job search until after they graduate. Her office has seen an increasing number of phone calls from alumni asking for help with the job search, but Lane gives priority to current students. She makes clear that she doesn’t place people. “What we will do is give you the skills, the knowledge and the coaching to be successful – if you follow through on it.”

NDC students hope the job market will recover.Lane herself follows up with every single student who attends the job fair and has seen many successes in the past. One example is junior Alex Andrade. The mathematics major interviewed with Progressive Insurance at the 2008 job fair and landed a paid internship for the summer. His performance was so satisfying that he was offered to take a full-time IT position once he graduates in December. “Prepare as early as you can,” Andrade says. “If you show up, are responsible and try to meet with people, they get to know you.” Andrade says he finds himself “kind of lucky” knowing that other students have more difficulty getting a foot in the door.

But optimism seems to outweigh the graduates’ worries. Lane says few students have expressed concerns about the job market, an attitude that was evident at the Career Fair. Senior Kevin Raleigh, who interviewed for an accounting job, said his optimism outweighs his worries. “We’ll pull through. The economy has to recover. At least I hope it does.  I hear the baby boomer generation is retiring.”

Christian Taske ’07 is the Editor and Writer at Notre Dame College.

E.g., 06/23/19
E.g., 06/23/19