College grads face stress of weakened job market

She’s scoured the Web, burned through her cell phone minutes, and mailed off heaven knows how many resumes. But three months after picking up her diploma, Mo Grumbly still doesn’t know when – or from what company – she’ll pick up her first full-time check.Welcome, Guilford Class of 2010, to the working world.
Or not.

The Economic Policy Institute puts the current unemployment rate for college graduates under the age of 25 at nine percent. That is the highest rate officials at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank have seen in 25 years.

The report said the unemployment rate for graduates like Grumbly won’t drop until U.S. companies are confident the resurging economy is here to stay, probably early next year. And even when that happens, graduates shouldn’t count on those fat pay checks companies handed out in recent years.

The same study showed that recent grads are earning one percent less than their 2009 brethren.

For Guilford grads like Grumbly, the thrill of graduating in June has given way to the grim reality of September: too many graduates vying for too few jobs.

“It’s been frustrating and overwhelming,” said Grumbly ’10 who graduated with a degree in community and justice studies. “There are days I feel lost and a little confused as to how to find a job.”

By day, Grumbly supervises 15 swimming pools in her hometown of Vienna, Va. By night she surfs the Web for jobs and calls friends in search of the elusive job lead.

“I’ve tried to make a habit out of it, but some days I just can’t get into it, because it’s the same thing every night – nothing,” said Grumbly, who’s back home living with her parents to save money. “I’m ready to find something and get on with my life.”

Career Coordinator and Advisor Teresa Fitzgerald, who works in Guilford’s Career and Community Learning Center, say Grumbly is not alone. Many recent grads are heading for graduate school or traveling overseas until the job market warms up again.

“It’s just not a good time to be job hunting right now,” said Fitzgerald. “There are so many people looking for work – and not just recent grads. Often when companies do decide to hire they’re hiring back older, experienced workers they may have earlier let go. It’s just extremely competitive out there for each and every job.”

Nobody knows this better than Bobby Lee ’10, who after graduating with a degree in business management, sent out dozens of resumes this summer. He’s received a few nibbles in the form of face-to-face interviews, but so far no offers.

“I never would have thought by September, October, I’d still be without a job, but it’s becoming a reality,” said Lee, who waits tables in nearby Blufton, S.C. to help with his $600 monthly student loan payments.

Lee never applied for an internship at Guilford, a fact he now laments.

“I realize how important that is now,” Lee said. “Companies want to see experience. If I had it to do all over again, I would have found one.”

That is what Fitzgerald hopes current students realize before they graduate. Guilford’s Career and Community Learning Center helps students line up internships, polish their interviewing skills, and craft the perfect resume for each job.
Senior Megan Snider has been a regular visitor to the Career and Community Learning Center since she was a first-year. The staff has helped Snyder tweak and polish her resume and cover letter, helped her secure internships, and get into graduate school.

“They’re one of my favorite resources on campus,” said Snyder, a religious studies major with a minor in non-profit management. “They go out of their way to make you feel welcome and try to help you get what it is you want.”

Fitzgerald said students make the mistake of not taking advantage of the center until their senior year.

“By then it’s not too late, but there’s a lot to be done,” Fitzgerald said. “Really, we should be seeing you your freshman year.”

Guilford students can also tap into the school’s Office of Alumni Relations, which relies on the school’s 18,000 alumni to help students network for possible jobs. Associate Director for Alumni Relations and Alumni Engagement Karrie Manson said students are increasingly relying on networking with Guilford alumni to get their foot in the door.

“You need whatever edge you can in this kind of market,” said Manson. “It’s all about getting an edge over the competition for the same job. Sometimes, it really is who you know.”

Grumbly used the Career and Community Learning Center her senior year but came away disenchanted.

“They didn’t seem like they were really listening to what I was looking for,” she said. “I’m sure it’s helpful for some students, but it just wasn’t for me.”

Lee and Grumbly are convinced they will find their dream job. It’s just going to take patience and time.

“I know I’ll find something in business or banking,” said Lee. “It may not be exactly what I want, but if it gets me in the door that’s all I want.