Earlier this month, the U.S. Labor Department reported that the national unemployment rate had reached 9.8 percent, with 263,000 jobs lost during the month of September. Although those numbers are down from earlier this year, anxiety about the state of the job market runs high for recent college graduates.
The results of the Career Resource Center’s First Destinations Survey, which was conducted in August and received responses from 71 percent of the Class of 2009, showed that 42 percent were employed, 17 percent planned on attending graduate school, 27 percent were still looking for employment, and 13 percent remained undecided.
The employment rate for the class was down 10 percent compared with the previous year, according to Director of the Career Resource Center Mike Sciola. The top five employers were Deutsch Bank, Morgan Stanley, The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET), Teach for America, and Google.
“Particularly with the Class of ’09, where hiring just stopped for most of the fall, last year was really, really scary for a lot of folks,” Sciola said. “The good news is things are looking a lot better this year.”
It has become clear that the post-commencement job security that awaited Wesleyan graduates for most of the past decade is no longer a guarantee.
“It used to be enough to have these wonderful resumés and experiences,” Sciola said. “But as the job market has gotten more and more competitive, the actual preparation for interviews has become more and more critical.”
Mandy Ho ’09 lost her first job offer with a consulting company in New York a month before graduating from the University.
“I felt really bad,” Ho said. “When the recession hit, whether you got a job was sometimes just luck, and that doesn’t feel good.”
Ho decided to move to San Francisco and is now working at an online marketing beauty and health tech start-up in Silicon Valley. Along with other Wesleyan alumni she started http://www.weapplywithyou.com/, a college admissions consulting group for international students.
Ho saw her job loss as an opportunity, however.
“[Losing my first job] could be a positive message; it’s sometimes hard to see,” she said. “I really enjoy what I am doing now.”
The recession has also affected the CRC. Alumni resources are now limited and the CRC is focusing primarily on undergraduates. Alumni one to five years out of Wesleyan are now only allotted four counseling appointments before referrals are made.
Despite this, many alumni are sticking together and networking in major cities. Sciola reported that New York City remains the number one destination for Wesleyan graduates, followed by San Francisco and Washington, DC.
Danielle Klimashousky ’08 moved to New York City after graduation, hoping to find a job in publishing. She shared an apartment with two other Wesleyan graduates where her portion of the monthly rent was $1,235. Klimashousky planned on using the summer to find a job.
“I was pretty confident I was going to get a job,” she said. “[But] I had to sublet my apartment in January because I ran out of money. I couldn’t even get a job waitressing.”
Klimashousky, like many others, was caught in the economic downturn.
“It really hit in October,” she said. “When I was interviewing for things they were like, ‘We don’t have any jobs. We’re not hiring because of the economy.’”
Klimashousky found an unpaid internship at a small magazine named Animal Fair which describes itself as “a lifestyle magazine and website for animal lovers.” She credits the internship with giving her the experience that employers want to see.
On April 30, 2009, 11 months after graduating from the University, Klimashousky landed a job with Everbind, a company located in New Jersey that buys new paperbacks directly from publishers and makes them into hardbacks so they will stand the wear and tear of classrooms. Klimashousky writes the back cover synopsis for many of the books trying to catch the attention of students. She also moved back home to New Jersey.
“Don’t be afraid to move back home,” she said. “I really enjoyed my time in New York City. I learned a lot about the necessity of managing money. It was an expensive lesson and expensive fun time but I’m glad I was able to live there.”
Sciola reports that the CRC has over 200 events, such as alumni and parent-led programs, scheduled for the course of the academic year. For the first time, the CRC is putting together an online resumé book for the class of 2010 in an attempt to reach out to employers nationwide. Seton Hall University and a few other universities have put together books that inspired the CRC to follow suit. Almost 300 students from the class of 2010 have already submitted their resumés.
“This is brand new. It’s really a response to try and broaden the audience for the excellent Wesleyan students,” Sciola said.
Sciola says that 80 percent of all people find jobs through networking.
“If you want a job in hand by the time you graduate, you have to put in time every week,” he said.
Klimashousky spoke with several alumni when she was deciding on a career path and said the conversations were helpful.
“Contact as many Wes alums as you can,” Klimashousky said. “You are paying $150,000 for those contacts, use them.”
Although the journey was not easy for either, Ho or Klimashousky, both are now happy with their job situations.
“Stay positive,” Ho said. “Something like a bad recession may be a blessing in disguise.”