It’s true: Now is probably the worst year to graduate and enter the job market since 1933. Unemployment rates are rising as the stock market is falling and college graduates are stuck in between, juggling their options. With an estimated 1.5 million-strong class of 2009 and hiring decrease of up to 22 percent for the first time in years, the outlook is grim and the competition is stiff for this unlucky class. But students can still remain optimistic about their prospects, as there are still options out there; they just need to choose wisely.
If the route chosen is to go directly into the job market, there are a few important things to remember. The first is that the economy is not going to bounce back right away so you need to be resilient. Things may not work out how you want them to but that doesn’t mean giving up. You may be underemployed or underpaid, but keep yourself positioned in the market and there is always room to work your way up. The need for college graduates may have subsided, but it has not diminished. As a graduate you are the most up-to-date with the latest stuff and are full of energy.
Be sure to make use of the resources you have at hand. Utilize the services at the career center to get started and be sure to attend the RIT Career Fair. This spring, about 170 employers took part in the event and they would not waste their time if there was no benefit to their companies. Get your foot in the door, even if it just means networking and making contacts in a variety of places.
In this market, you may need to broaden your horizons. Don’t close yourself off to opportunities just because a potential job is not in the city you had your heart set on. Also, don’t write off small businesses that you may not have heard of before. “Many of the traditional big name employers have been hardest hit by the economy, so graduates should be prepared to cast a wider net in their search for employment. The best opportunities may exist with companies they’ve never heard of before,” says Paul Stella, Director of Public Relations at RIT.
Try to stay on course while searching for a job; trying to wait out the recession appears to be lack of interest and potentially laziness in the eyes of employers. Keep in contact with places that claim there is a hiring freeze. These freezes can stop just as quickly as they began. If you stay on their minds during this time, it is much more likely that you will be contacted once the freeze is lifted.
If none of this works, there are still other options. Staring your own business is without a doubt the boldest choice, but it is not out of the question. Obviously you need a good idea and the money to back it up, but you also need to be willing to roll with the punches. In this changing economy, no one knows what’s coming next and you need to be able to adapt to that. One of the main reasons many graduates are scared to start their own company is not just the market but the pressure to go into a standard profession with your degree. This is usually seen as the safer route but, in the world today, "safe" professions like banking are no longer reliable. Now may be as good a time as any to start your own business. The experience you will receive doing so is more valuable than almost any other career path in the overall scheme of things. So, if you think you’re ready, don’t let the economy hold you back.
If the job market just doesn’t seem like the right choice for you right now, there is always the option of going to grad school. This may be the right time to pursue a higher education, but only if it’s for the right reasons. It is expensive and may not help you in the long run if you are just looking to prolong your job search. Masters and Ph.D.s are highly regarded in scientific areas and there is always the opportunity to receive extra funding for them. But degrees in areas like the arts or social sciences do not hold as much sway with employers. This does not mean they are useless and should not be looked into — just make sure your investment is worthwhile. Position yourself while in grad school so that, once you earn your degree, you are in a good position to take full advantage of your earning potential.
Remember that with any job you receive, experience can help you down the road in future careers. Stay optimistic. Just because the economy is down now does not mean it will stay that way. It fluctuates constantly and the job market will improve eventually. Recessions are common occurrences and with the right tactics you will outlast it. If not, I’ve heard they are hiring at McDonalds.