By Lauren Holliday
Central Florida Future, U. Central Florida
(UWire)—College seniors hear stories about the scarce job market. Some have dreamed of graduate school since they could walk; others now see it as their escape from job applications.
According to a student survey, which holds results from 50,000 students nationwide, the class of 2011 had more difficulty in its job hunt than the class of 2010.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) 2011 Student Survey, "The median time that seniors from the class of 2011 took before landing a job was 7.74 months. For seniors from the class of 2010, the median time looking for a job before securing one was 6.95 months."
NACE did not pinpoint the reason.
"It may be that seniors this year saw the difficulty the two previous classes had in finding a job and simply started their searches sooner, perhaps even before the recruiting season truly got underway," NACE said in the survey.
Students may fear they are underqualified, underexperienced, or that there is a lack of jobs; they conclude their job search before it ever begins.
"The median time that seniors from the class of 2011 took before landing a job was 7.74 months." Elizabeth Shulz, a graduate student in U. Central Florida's DeVos Sport Business Management, planned on graduate school someday, and the limited job market furthered her education sooner rather than later.
"I didn't look extensively for jobs, but I know people weren't hiring," Shulz said. "If I knew people were hiring, I probably would have worked for a couple of years-I know jobs like you to have work experience."
Lynn Hansen, executive director of Career Services at UCF, had a message for graduate students: Do not get discouraged.
"Looking across the board at the typical job search, students should give themselves around six months," Hansen said. "Finding a job is not like going to pick up your cap and gown for graduation; you have to start early."
A promising job market is on the horizon for 2011 graduates, according to a Huffington Post article titled "New College Graduates Fare Better In Job Market As Earlier Classes Struggle."
According to the article, "Hiring of new college grads is up 10% this year, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports, with many of the new jobs going to students who have a business background."
A bachelor's degree with experience is a winning combination.
According to the same article, "Unemployment among people who hold at least a bachelor's is only 4.3%, compared with the national average rate of 9.1%. Companies are more likely to hire an applicant straight out of school than one who has been unemployed for some time."
Hansen also sees a brighter future.
"I am optimistic," she said. "There were more job recruiters on campus this year, better than the year before, but that doesn't mean if the government adds a new regulation or something happens on the news, the job market won't be affected."
Graduate school is an option, but it is not the only one.
"There is a tendency in any type of economy for students to go to graduate school, but you want to be careful: don't over-educate yourself and have no work experience," said Jackie Herold, UCF experiential learning faculty coordinator.
Some students have majors that require higher education. Mark Gallagher, a graduate in electrical engineering from UCF, is one of those students.
A bachelor's degree with experience is a winning combination. "There are more exciting opportunities for engineers when you have a master's," Gallagher said. "If you don't get it you will probably get stuck with a boring, mundane job. The master's degree really helps."
Other students see the graduate degree as added marketability on their résumé.
Kelly Higgins, sport business management graduate and communications minor at UCF, saw friends with her same degree struggle to find work and chose to pursue her master's.
"When it comes to careers in business, it's definitely more competitive because people aren't getting jobs right out of school," Higgins said. "They're going on to pursue their master's. I think the master's degree is almost equivalent of a bachelor's degree now."
Students should highlight skills aside from their education.
"If you didn't take advantage of career services, i.e., co-op, internships, you might want to relate volunteer or student organizations and part-time work into your résumé-you want to demonstrate you have skills employers want," Hansen said.
Whether your future is in a classroom or in an office, stay fresh.
"Keep your skills and knowledge sharp," Herold said. "Don't let them get stale when they're in nonuse. For those who are still looking and out of work, use your networking skills."
Potential graduate students, job seekers, and undergraduates, bad job market or not, one message repeats: Utilize your resources, give yourself time, and education cannot compensate lack of experience.