Erik J. Lowe, ’02, former marketing and management major, did everything he was supposed to. He studied hard and graduated in the top half of his class. He participated in such extracurricular activities as FUSA senate and orientation facilitator. He double majored and held an internship senior year.

He sent out his resume to at least 30 companies and went to over eight interviews. Four months have passed since graduation, and he’s still unemployed.

“Five years ago I would have had a job easily,” said Lowe. “Now no matter how hard I try I still can’t find anything. It seems like it’s just a matter of luck, and I have none.”

In previous years, a college degree was touted as a guarantee of a good job. Even in the economic boom of the late-nineties, most college grads had several job offers after getting their diplomas.

Those days have passed.

As members of last year’s graduating class at Fairfield now know, companies that used to compete for their older classmates just a few years ago are now barely offering any jobs. Last year the unemployment rate was at its highest level since 1994. A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) showed that many graduates who had actually found jobs were getting less money than they would have a year ago.

“Students are going to have to work harder and expect less,” said Dr. Edward Deak, professor of economics at Fairfield. “They need to be flexible, undergo management training, and have strong quantitative skills.”

“It’s not about GPAs anymore,” said Eric Kaul, ’02, a former accounting major now employed by Deloitte ‘ Touche. “It’s the fact that people can juggle many different things that sets them out from the crowd. Employers are looking for people with solid GPAs and other things on their plates.”

Many students this year who watched the class before them struggle to find a job still remain fearful. Career planning advisors, professors, and students all agree the best time to get started is now. There are a lot of resources available on campus including visits from alumni and employers.

“Because of the bleak economy and my interest in foreign cultures I’m exploring my options working abroad,” said Courtney Ferreira, ’03.

“I fear that due to the current state of economic affairs job opportunities will be limited for those lacking real-world experience,” said Marisa Muzic, ’03. “Therefore in order to increase my chances in finding a job following graduation I plan on attending grad school.”

Students aren’t the only ones worried.

“This year it’s too early to tell what’s happening or going to happen,” said Michael Dalton, director of Career Planning. “So far there are a healthy number of employers coming to campus. How aggressively they will recruit depends on the economy.”

NACE found that employers expect to hire fewer new college graduates in 2002-03 than they did in 2001-02. Their Job Outlook Fall Preview survey found employers expect to hire 3.6 percent fewer new grads in 2002-2003 than they did in 2001-2002.

“Last year’s college grads experienced a difficult time in their job search, and it looks like this year will also be challenging,” said Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director in a press release. “The Class of 2003 is going to face a lot of competition for jobs. Now, more than ever, students need to use all the resources available to them, particularly their campus career center, where they’ll get expert guidance in conducting a successful job search.”

Last year Fairfield had about 20 percent fewer employers scheduled for on-campus recruiting than previous years, according to Dalton. “For example GE, one of the major firms that usually took a lot of Fairfield students accepted almost only their interns for employment.

One problem is that many older, experienced workers with advanced degrees and years of experience who were fired from their jobs turned to lower-paying jobs instead of having no job at all, leading to even fewer jobs available for new graduating seniors.

As a result, some of last years graduates took lower paying jobs, while others choose to head straight into graduate school to help boost their resumes. Many decided to save money by moving back home with their families.

“Since I couldn’t find the job I wanted I had to settle for moving back home and taking two lesser paying part time jobs,” said Lisa Masterno, ’02. “Now I hope this experience I’m getting will help me find a better job soon.”

According to the Fall 2002 Salary Survey, published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, starting salaries fell as demand for 2002 college graduates diminished.

Average starting salary offers fell below $30,000 for many liberal arts disciplines, according to the NACE website. One of the biggest hits was on political science majors who saw their average salary offer nose-dive 12.6 percent from 2001 to $28,546. Psychology graduates’ average salary dropped 10.7 percent to $26,738 and English majors dropped 8.3 percent to $28,438. Economics/finance graduates, now averaging $39,961, saw a drop of 2 percent.

Many graduates now realize that money isn’t everything in today’s economy.

“What people should also take into consideration is to go for the experience not where the money is,” said Kaul. “Many great jobs don’t always pay the most but their place on your resume is worth more than what it seems.”

Luckily, for future graduates, there are signs that the economy is on the upswing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, they project an increase of 15 percent in total employment between 2000 and 2010. This equals an increase of more than 20 million jobs.

If students are ambitious, creative, and know where to look, they can find jobs even now.

“Obviously the economy is not as strong as it was two to three years ago, but there is still opportunity for new, eager, young people,” said Deak. “Opportunity will be stronger in the nursing, healthcare, technology, engineering, computer science, and accounting fields.”

“With (accounting giant Arthur) Andersen gone, the other four firms remaining have increased their clientele and therefore need more workers,” said John Tierney, ’03. “As an accounting major I am not too worried about my job prospects.”

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