Sep 30, 2008

Job Hunting in an Economic Drought

by Matthew Coleman

In previous generations, all that was needed to be successful in life was a college degree and a good work ethic. With the recent economic slowdown, stock market instability, and a mortgage crisis driving corporate superpowers into bankruptcy, times have become much more complicated. Today’s college graduate will need every competitive edge available to be successful in today’s job world.

Times are hard, and they are not showing signs of letting up any time soon. America derives 70 percent of its economy from consumers according to Professor Robert Rencher Jr. Recent economic downturns have made it increasingly difficult for consumers to continue spending money and stimulate the economy. If the consumers are not buying, then the businesses in America start to feel the pinch.

“As companies are not doing as well, they are less willing to hire,” Rencher said.
Few workers in America are able to remain unaffected by these circumstances, but college graduates have been hit especially hard. The unemployment rate for 20 to 24-year-olds climbed from 7.4 to 9.8 percent in the second quarter according to the Labor Department. Nearly one out of every ten college graduates cannot find a job in their field.“I didn’t think it was going to be so hard to find a job after I graduated,” Jennifer Seluta, a 2008 Liberty graduate, said. “It is not as easy to get in as you may think, even if you have a lot of experience.”

Just because a graduate has a degree does not mean a job is guaranteed after graduation. As the economy stands, there are just not enough jobs to go around. Unless the market makes a significant turnaround, the odds stacking up against college graduates will continue.

Ultimately, any prediction for what the economy is going to look like in May is at best riddled with “ifs” and “maybes.” There are too many contributing factors to accurately determine whether or not the job market will be flourishing or declining as Liberty graduates take the plunge into the work force.

However, the future graduates of Liberty do not have to weigh their chances of getting a good job on a “what-if” scenario. The Center for Academic Support and Advising Services (CASAS) exists to better prepare students for their futures after graduation.

“Our job is to provide services to the students to help ensure their education at Liberty is valuable in the real world,” said Carrie Barnhouse, the director of the career center.

The business world is competitive, and there are a lot of people chasing after the same jobs. The deciding factor is often how well a potential employee can sell their skills to an employer. CASAS provides a number of programs designed specifically to help students increase their job readiness and marketability for future employers. Everything from resume critiques and mock job interviews to helping students find internships is offered free of charge for every Liberty student.

Time management is crucial for those who will be graduating in May. A lot of work is required to be ready to begin searching for a job and waiting until the last minute to begin is not a wise choice.

“You can never start (preparing) too soon,” Barnhouse said. “If you are graduating in May, you should be starting now.”

One of the biggest factors involved in getting the right job is experience before applications are submitted. Employers are not looking to hire employees who have to be nurtured and trained extensively on their dime. It is imperative for students and graduates alike to get as much experience as possible via internships while they still can.

“One of the biggest things I see on resumes is a lack of experience,” Barnhouse said. “Instead of taking that construction job over summer break, see if you can volunteer at a place you can count as experience on your resume.”

Much of the essential knowledge required to work effectively at a job can only be learned by doing it in the field.

Also, participating in internships allows students to start building an effective network of contacts that can be vital when it is time to search for a paying job. Having a long list of friends who can offer help can be the difference between getting an okay job and getting a great job.

In addition to the numerous programs provided, CASAS also funds on-campus job and networking fairs for students to attend and see what opportunities exist. CASAS also networks with other universities to gain access to national corporations that are looking to hire college graduates. The goal is to provide as many opportunities as possible to make the transition from student to employee as easy as possible.

LUnetWork, an internet-based job search engine, is also available to every student at Liberty. All that is required is a Liberty student account. The Web site posts hundreds of part-time and full-time job listings and internship opportunities.
CASAS is an effective department that can help those who use it. Of the seniors who graduated after the spring 2008 semester, nearly 50 percent used CASAS in some way, according to Barnhouse. From that percentage, 80 percent had found a job and were hired before graduation.

“Liberty prepared me well,” Matthew Pierce, a 2008 Liberty graduate, said. “I feel very prepared and qualified to do my job.”



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