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Who will hire the Class of 2009?

With on-campus recruiters in shorter supply, new grads will have to hunt for work

(istockphoto.com)
By Christine Bolzan
January 28, 2009
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Normally abuzz with activity this time of year, college and university career placement offices are subdued places these days.

That's because on-campus recruiters, represented largely by finance and engineering firms, are in shorter supply this season. With few openings available even for experienced applicants, most companies aren't spending time and money to woo first-time job-seekers this year.

Even in robust economic times, 60 percent of all graduates return home from school unemployed, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The average job search takes 6 months, but it is expected to take at least 3 months longer this year.

Career counselors, well-aware of the obstacles facing first-time job seekers, are scrambling to beef up their "events" calendars, which can include networking events with alumni, advice on how to improve interviewing skills, and similar career guidance. But the hard reality remains: fewer jobs are coming to campus this spring and graduates will have to go out and hunt for work.

The good news is that there are pockets of growth in this economy and all of them offer opportunities for new college graduates. The trick is identifying those industries and understanding how to parlay your interests and skills within those fields.

So, who is hiring the Class of 2009?

Healthcare, pharmaceuticals and biotech, three inter-related fields, are booming. Because of the simple fact that people are living longer, these industries are among the world's largest and most profitable. Most importantly for job-seekers, you don't have to hold a science or bio-engineering degree to break in. For example:

  • Political science majors are finding work in healthcare policy positions at think tanks, consulting firms, and within the government.
  • Economics and business students are in demand at the larger hospitals and drug companies in management and financial roles.
  • Sociology and psychology degrees open doors to counseling jobs at retirement and medical facilities.
  • English majors with good writing skills can find work in corporate communications at pharmaceutical firms, insurance companies, and larger healthcare providers.
  • Healthcare Information Technology is a steadily growing field taking job applicants from engineering, information sciences, and web analytics backgrounds.
  • Pharmaceutical sales continues to be a reliable option with great long-term opportunities for liberal arts majors with strong interpersonal skills.

Government isn't going away any time soon, and despite budget cuts, will continue to be a steady supplier of entry-level jobs. Who is hiring here? Well, the usual suspects spring to mind, such as those newly elected congressmen and women looking for entry-level Capitol Hill aides for their Washington, D.C. offices. A change of administration always brings turnover, thus creating job openings. Additionally, consider these options:

  • The Department of Defense (DoD). Each spring the DoD hires hundreds of new college graduates in civilian positions, and 2009 will be no different. The DoD offers solid training and development for entry-level employees, and occasionally international assignments. Currently, DoD is actively seeking majors in Business Management, History, Education, Finance, Counseling, and Sociology. Positions for graduates with these degrees include teaching, financial services, and crisis management.
  • The National Security Agency (NSA). Not only is the NSA the country's largest employer of mathematicians, but the agency is hungry for linguists and researchers as well. Jobs in border and transportation security, intelligence, public health, and policy analysis are available, and degree-holders beyond the traditional math, science, and engineering students are in demand.
  • If post-graduate work is part of your long-term plan, another notable benefit to working for a government agency is exclusive access to graduate school grants and scholarships. The website www.usajobs.gov is an excellent source of government listings, though for internships you will need to visit the individual websites of each agency.

The world of education remains fertile ground for new job applicants. Check out www.academiccareers.com to get started. With the national trend toward full-day kindergarten, jobs in early childhood education are on the rise. Additionally, increased federal support to students with special needs has created more jobs for teachers with unique qualifications able to support this demographic.

Layoffs resulting from the economic downturn have prompted many workers to return to school to enhance their skills or change careers entirely, creating teaching opportunities at traditional and non-traditional learning institutions for recent college graduates. And all of these factors have created non-teaching opportunities in education such as jobs for administrators, recruiters, and guidance counselors. Academic careers are a good option for students who have studied:

  • Sociology
  • Counseling
  • Human Resource Management
  • Education Administration
  • Business
  • General liberal arts

Another area to consider is telecommunications. The field has seen significant convergence recently and analysts disagree on the long-term outlook, but the fact remains that opportunities do exist for college graduates. While you may want to carefully consider if a potential employer is a target for being taken over before applying, the companies thriving in this industry provide excellent, entry-level training ground. The rate of growth for the surviving firms, the increased worldwide usage of wireless technologies, and the successful resurgence of low-cost carriers make this an exciting and prosperous field. Engineers, software and product testing candidates have their choice of positions to apply for, but the reach is broader as well. Applicants of all backgrounds can seek positions in:

  • Public relations
  • Sales
  • Customer support
  • Government relations

When applying to any position in any field, you need to thoroughly research the company and the industry, and be well-versed in its demands, condition, and the lingo. For example, you can stay up to date on the telecom sector by checking the website www.fiercewireless.com on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

There's no question that the Class of 2009 faces one of the most challenging job markets in decades. Nevertheless, jobs are out there, and with a little creativity, assertiveness and willingness to cast a wide net in previously unconsidered areas, you'll find that your degree - no matter what it is - is your ticket to employment.

Christine Bolzan is founder of Graduate Career Coaching, www.graduatecareercoaching.com, a personal counseling firm specializing in helping college students and recent graduates successfully launch their careers.

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