CARS HOMES JOBS

Cheering on my college graduate

Thursday, May 23, 2013
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Daughter No. 2 and I share enough physical characteristics that I sometimes benefit from her closet purges: a raincoat, a pullover, a pair of running shoes.

But it occurred to me, as I melted under summer-like heat and humidity at her college commencement on Monday, that we also shared this: graduating into challenging job markets.

She started college in 2009, just after the official end date of the Great Recession. I began college as one recession concluded and graduated in the middle of a subsequent one.

The government pegged my back-to-back recessions at 27 months, all told. The 2007-09 Great Recession lasted 18 months, but, as we’re all aware, remnants of it have lingered.

Unemployment remained stubbornly high well into 2011 as the recovery failed to gain traction, and even today we’re not free of layoff announcements. For the Class of 2013, that sluggishness is evident in the fall and spring outlook for jobs posted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

The group, which links college career counselors and employers of new graduates, projected in September that hiring would be up this year, based on a survey that showed employers expected to add 13 percent more newly minted, bachelor’s-degree holders than they did in 2012. By April, though, NACE reported that employers had dialed back their hiring expectations to just 2.1 percent, reflecting a caution seen in the broader economy.

That’s not to say that students aren’t finding jobs. According to NACE, nearly half of graduating seniors who busily sent out resumes received at least one job offer, and more than a quarter of the Class of 2013 was expected to leave college with a job in hand.

Top majors among the latter group were accounting, computer science, engineering, economics and business administration, according to NACE, and that jibed with what Daughter No. 2 saw in her circle of friends and acquaintances.

Some had worked internships and summers with employers who now made them job offers, she said, wistfully ticking off the salary, health insurance and 401(k) benefits that one friend would receive. My path from college to work had a bit of luck to it, despite the macroeconomics of the time: an internship that quickly became a part-time job then grew into a full-time one.

Her transition won’t be as smooth and the competition will be fierce: The Class of 2013 numbers nearly 1.8 million bachelor’s-degree recipients, according to NACE.

So I’ve taken on the role of cheerleader-in-chief, to help Daughter No. 2 as I can.

I offer maxims such as “Finding a job is a job itself,” to encourage her to keep watching job boards, networking and sending out resumes. When a promising interview in the midst of studying for finals did not produce a job offer, I counseled that the letdown was “like not getting a date with the hot guy you thought would ask you out.” (“Ha ha. What an analogy,” was her text reply.)

And I’m keeping at the ready a stream of encouraging government statistics: that by October 2011, nearly 75 percent of that year’s May college graduates were employed; that the median weekly wage in 2012 for bachelor’s degree recipients was higher than that for all workers ($1,066 vs. $815).

Who knows: She could redouble her job efforts just to get me to stop.

Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at marlenejkennedy@gmail.com.

 
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