published Saturday, May 7th, 2011

Outlook brightens for grads

STILL NEED A JOB?

Many college graduates don’t have jobs at graduation. Here are some tips for those still looking — or just starting:

• Lots of recent graduates find they’re not experienced enough for some job postings. Stay open to internships or volunteer opportunities that help build experience and can be a foot in the door.

• To make a resume stand out, describe whatever experience demonstrates good work ethic and communication skills.

• Search out related professional organizations and attend their events. Networking can reveal job opportunities that might not be posted.

Source: Mallory Smith, division director of staffing firm Accountemps

University students across the country graduate this weekend, and after they move their tassels and toss their caps they’ll likely have an easier job search to look forward to than the class of 2010.

According to a National Association of Colleges and Employers survey, employers report they will hire 19 percent more new graduates this year than last.

Jean Dake, director of placement and student employment at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, isn’t surprised by the report.

“Things are looking pretty good,” she said. “We’re seeing more companies coming to campuses to interview, which shows the economy is looking better.”

Dake said most students don’t seriously search for jobs until after graduation. She’s seen increased employer interest, so she thinks jobs will be out there once grads start looking.

Several motivated students who started looking early are not just employed, but were able to be a bit picky and grab the jobs they wanted.

UTC marketing graduate Kimberly Speciale held out for a position that would let her be just like mom.

Growing up and watching her mom’s climb to an upper-level management position with health care company HCA International showed her the career path she wants to follow, Speciale said.

“Knowing that she’s important and that they need her there and that she plays a huge role in the company inspires me,” she said. “I want to model myself after her.”

Starting in June, Speciale will be training to run Chattanooga area sales and marketing for Packaging Services Inc., a Greeneville, Tenn.-based company that produces packaging materials.

But a better job market doesn’t mean a perfect job market. Of all Speciale’s friends, she’s the only one who’s been able to land a job, she said.

That difficulty isn’t limited to UTC students. Covenant College graduate Lara Berger’s ultimate career goal is to train West African communities to deal with HIV and AIDS. She’s graduating today with an interdisciplinary studies degree in education, French and community development.

So far she’s had no luck finding the type of graduate school or entry-level position she’s been looking for, but found a temporary job at a bed and breakfast to keep her going.

“It’s still just a low-end job, I’m not really doing work within my major, but I’ll get there,” she said. “Right now it’s just about having a steady job to start hitting at the loans. I have student loans up to the elbow.”

In her four years of college, Berger built up about $23,000 of debt and wants to start paying it off before interest builds up. But that’s difficult to do. She has to work 40 hours a week to pay the bills and spends a good chunk of her down time figuring out her future. On top of that, she plans to start working 20 unpaid hours a week at an internship at her school’s Chalmers Center where she’ll gain experience in economic development.

“It’s really a struggle,” she said. “What I get out of it is paying rent and maybe some loans and another spot on my resume, which hopefully makes a difference, but it’s a lot of effort for just one thing on the resume.”

Berger’s situation isn’t unique. Though almost half of Covenant’s grads report they found a job or are headed to grad school — a better outlook than just before last year’s graduation — 41 percent are still looking, according to Anthony Tucker, director of the college’s Center for Calling and Career.

About 61 percent of soon-to-be grads have been looking since before January, he said.

“The shocking number is 17 percent haven’t begun looking,” Tucker said. “That’s not typically a good scenario.”

Dake agreed. She said students should start looking for jobs as early as the end of their junior year.

“It doesn’t mean that even if you start six months or a year early you’re guaranteed a job by graduation, but you’re certainly far ahead,” she said.

Berger has certainly learned that lesson, but she said she’s not discouraged by her lack of success.

“It’s definitely frustrating. It just feels like the Internet is set up for me to find all the clues but never the answer,” she said. “I find these great ideas, but nothing ever clicks.

“I have motivation and I have a lot of energy towards going and doing. Hopefully, I’m going to hit something before I lose my motivation.”

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