Job market remains bleak for grads

The class of 2003 will face one of the toughest job markets in 20 years, prompting several recent graduates to postpone entering the work force and earn a higher degree of education.

Although hiring trends will be about the same as last year, companies cut their employment of college graduates by 36 percent two years ago, according to an April survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

“This is not fabulous news, but starting off the year we were thinking there would be another decrease (in hiring),” said Mimi Collins, a spokesperson for NACE.

She said officials initially anticipated there would be a 3.6 percent cut in graduate hiring.

GW has not yet compiled numbers concerning this year’s graduates’ post-college plans. The Career Center surveys students when they are picking up their caps and gowns as to what their plans are following graduation. Another survey is handed out six months after graduation.

Last year, the majority of the GW class of 2002 found jobs. Sixty to 65 percent of the class was employed by November, 23-30 percent either made a decision about graduate school or was pursuing a degree, 4-7 percent was actively seeking employment and a small percentage was either taking a year off or engaged in other plans, said Marva Gumbs, executive director of the Career Center.

Gumbs said she could not anticipate whether this year’s graduates would follow the same path as last year’s.

She said several companies will be cutting employment for this year, but that no fields have “completely closed down to hiring.” She said several District-area industries were negatively impacted this year by anthrax scares, sniper attacks, terrorism and the war in Iraq.

“The sniper certainly had an impact on your hospitality, tourism and restaurant (industries),” Gumbs said. She also noted that during the two to three-week sniper scare, the entertainment industry was affected because people were not shopping and going out as much as before.

Gumbs said fields with growing opportunities for recent graduates in Washington are the federal government, non-profit sector and technology.

“There is a study (that reports) by 2005 the government is going to see a lot of retirements and attrition, and is trying to gear up and be more visible on college campuses,” Gumbs said.

If this year’s graduating class follows the last year’s trend, the majority of students will be employed after graduation, despite a tough market.

However, several graduates said they are continuing with school after they leave GW.

Debra Bright Harris, director of admissions for the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, said the school received 914 applications this year – 24 more than last year.

“Typically when the economy is bad, people go back to school,” Harris said. She also attributed the increase to an “overwhelming interest in the helping professions.”

Some other graduates said they have no employment plans, and are currently looking for work.

“It’s really frustrating (to look for a job) because I feel like the market is so bad right now that employers feel they can jerk you around,” said Jessica Erali, an electronic media major.

Erali, who will continue to work part-time at a the D.C. law firm she has worked at for the past two years until she finds a full-time job, said she would like an entry-level position at a law firm.

William Reimbold, an economics and political science major, said he is moving home to Los Angeles after graduation. Reimbold said he has looked “a little bit” for a job, but has not secured anything yet.

He said he is still unsure of what type of job he wants, but is more interested in political science than economics. Reimbold said he interned on Capitol Hill for three years.

Brian Krueger, president of CollegeGrad.com – a Web site that focuses on entry-level job searches – said this year’s market is especially tough because of increased competition between graduates of the class of 2003 and graduates of the class of 2002, many of whom have still not found jobs.

“There’s no silver bullet to finding a job after college,” said Kreuger, who also wrote the book “College Grad Job Hunter.” “Once somebody graduates, your fulltime job is to find a job, searching out all the different avenues.”

Kreuger suggested that graduates looking for work go to their university’s career centers and be proactive. CollegeGrad.com offers a variety of free services for students looking for entry-level jobs, from resume templates to job listings.

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