The recent economic turmoil has already gotten a lot of college seniors thinking about their job options, but recent statistics show that they might need to think harder. The National Association of Colleges and Employers conducted a survey in August of 219 employers that projected a 6.1-percent increase in hiring for the class of 2009. NACE conducted the same survey again this month, and 146 of the original 219 employers responded, revealing that the projected outlook had dropped to a 1.3-percent increase.
According to Edwin Koc, NACE’s director of strategic and foundation research, the organization decided to conduct the survey again because of the recent chaos in the stock market and the credit crunch.
“We were aware that [the employers] could be reevaluating their plans, but most wait until the end of the first semester before they reevaluate,” said Koc. “These were extraordinary circumstances and a lot of them had reevaluated their plans, with a good number having decreased their hiring expectations already.”
The employers surveyed were all members of NACE, and were broadly distributed across a variety of industries, the dominant groups of which were manufacturers, financial service firms and professional service firms. There were also representatives from the government, retail and trade.
Koc said that in past years the results of the surveys have been generally accurate. Projected percentages below a 6 percent-increase are usually indicative of a tough job market.
“The biggest change [at Cornell] this year compared to prior years has been a lower level of activity with our employers,” said Rebecca Sparrow, director of Cornell Career Services. “We still have many visiting campus, but they’ve cut back their schedules. The financial service firms have been harder hit than others, and some of them have curtailed full time recruiting.”
Koc suggested that seniors should begin thinking about the job search process earlier and do more research than they would have done in the past. In the past few years, many students have relied on simply searching the web, but Koc warned that there may not be as many opportunities available that way this year.
Sparrow noted that the advice that Career Services is giving out has not drastically changed, but some of the messages they try to convey are being heard a little better this year, mainly one about taking a multi-faceted approach to job searching. Career Services advises that students try methods ranging from networking to direct applications to on-campus recruiting.
“We’re trying to emphasize a little more this year that students need to be a little more flexible. For example, a student that is preparing for a financial services job may have to be flexible in what constitutes as financial services. Where they may have been looking for a job on Wall Street, they might now need to look at a job as a financial analyst in other companies,” Sparrow said.
Another example that Sparrow gave of how students could be more flexible is in terms of the employer lists that they create for themselves. A year ago, students might have had a short list of firms whose names they had known for many years, but now a student with a similar background might need to come up with a list of employers they have never heard of before but are looking to employ people.
Cornell students appeared to be aware of the situation and its ramifications.
“I’m not planning on going into the private sector. This is a decision that I made a while ago but has been strengthened by the current economic situation,” David Goochee ’09 said. Goochee is considering joining Teach for America after college.
Many students with plans for higher education acknowledged the crisis, but did not feel like it would affect their prospects in the future.
“I’m going to med school. It might affect funding for the school but it shouldn’t affect me personally, however I do think it’ll affect people getting jobs,” Stacy Scofield ’09 said.
Similarly, Diane Miranda ’09 said, “I’m in ROTC so I’ll be automatically commissioned, so I know that I’m financially secure”; and Abby Dugan ’09 said, “I personally am not interested in the financial sector at all and I don’t think it’s going to affect me after college. I’m interested in teaching or law school.”
Koc said that NACE will do another survey as an update in the spring around February or March.