Next step could be a tough one for graduates

By David Arkin: PNT Correspondent

After four years in the classroom, many newly crowned graduates are eager to take their new knowledge and hit the job market.
Not so fast.
Getting a good job for some may actually be tougher than that calculus final they just got done taking.
For those thousands of college graduates who are jumping into the job market — including more than the 350 who got their degrees on Saturday from Eastern New Mexico University — there is some good news: getting a job may be easier now than it has been in two years. But it may not be the job new graduates have been dreaming about.
“Since 9-11 the job market has not been good,” said Ty Walker, director of Career Services at ENMU. “But now there are a lot of jobs that are opening up across the country. The jobs may not exactly be where the graduates want to go or the salary they were hoping for, but at least there are jobs open.”
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that a survey last month by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that employers planned to hire 11.2 percent more college graduates from the class of 2004 than the previous class. Service-sector employers expected hiring to be up 16.1 percent over the prior year, while manufacturers predicted an increase of 12.6 percent.
ENMU is also feeling the effect of the job-hiring swing.
Recently, a job fair was held on campus where 40 school districts attended. At the fair, 66 students received job offers from schools, Walker said.
Also, several companies held on-campus interviews this year, including Walgreen’s and Enterprise.
“We will have companies hire kids sometimes before they even graduate,” Walker said.
But the job market isn’t all roses.
Just ask Cam Elder, an ENMU student who graduated on Saturday with a master’s degree in sports communication.
Elder can’t get a job.
“I’ve applied for 30 or 40 jobs, mostly with college athletic departments, and I haven’t gotten anywhere,” he said.
He’s applying for a variety of positions — everything from positions as an assistant athletic director to assistant director of intramurals.
“I have gotten a lot of turn downs,” he said.
The story is all too familiar for Elder. He graduated from ENMU in 2002 with an undergraduate degree in communications and couldn’t get a job he wanted then either.
He did, however, find a job in California with a hip-hop radio station in 2002, but said the pay was too low and the hours were tough.
“They were paying less than $20,000 and that just wasn’t enough to survive in the big city,” he said.
Because he couldn’t get a job he wanted, he went back to school to get his master’s degree.
Many of those who can’t get a job choose graduate school, Walker said.
“When the market is slow in some areas, undergraduates will go to get their master’s degree,” Walker said. “We’re seeing students turn back to that.”
Elder said his lack of real-world experience is probably hurting his chances of getting a job.
“For some of the jobs I don’t have the qualifications that they want,” he said. “I don’t know how employers expect people to have three to five years of experience when they come out of college.”
Elder does have some experience. He worked in ENMU’s Sports Information office and did an internship with the Facilities Department at the University of Minnesota last summer.
It’s not that Elder expects right now to be the athletic director of a Division I powerhouse — he just wants to get his foot in the door, any door.
“I’m basically open to anything,” he said. “Money really doesn’t matter. I just need enough money so I can live.”
While people like Elder are having a tough time getting a job, Walker said he’s seeing numerous students get jobs in the criminal justice field after they graduate.
“All across the country, hiring for criminal justice type jobs are hot,” Walker said. “The government has backed off a bit from hiring a lot of air marshals. But the government is still going strong and trying to hire for national security.”
Other hot fields include computer software and nursing programs.
Walker estimates that between 50-55 percent of those who graduate from ENMU have jobs three months after they leave the institution.
After someone graduates, the Career Services office sends a packet to that graduate, seeking information on what that individual is doing in terms of work.
“The figure is not as good as we would like it to be,” Walker said.
Some students decide to take some time off after graduating, Walker said.
“Every person doesn’t get a job immediately,” he said. “But by 6-to-12 moths our graduates should have jobs.”
But it’s hard for Walker to know just how many students get jobs because some don’t respond to his office’s job survey.
“A lot of grads don’t report to us,” he said.
Walker though did say that 6-to-12 months after graduation anywhere between 70-to-80 percent of ENMU graduates have jobs.
What helps students get jobs when they leave is getting an internship during their junior year.
“A lot of students wait to look for a job,” Walker said. “We try to get students to try for an internship. If they get an internship the chances of them going back and getting a job from the business where they had their internship is greater.”