Business students adapt to harsher job market

Wed, 2008-11-26 09:58 -- univcomm
November 26, 2008

There have been better times to look for a job, but that doesn’t have spring graduates abandoning their career ambitions.

They’re just learning to adapt.

Kelly Kaiser and other seniors planning to graduate in May with business degrees from Anderson University said the ongoing financial meltdown, the one that’s sunk blue chip stocks and shuttered major banks, means they have to be smart and a bit more open-minded about their job search.

While Kaiser hopes to parlay her concentration in nonprofit management into work with a Chicago museum, she said she understands that the current job market means considering other options and being patient.

“You have to be optimistic, and you have to be willing to work for it,” the Anderson native said. “And if you don’t have a job in May, it’s not the end of the world.”

Students said their classes, even those outside the business school, have turned the financial crisis into an economic case study.

“It’s been a great learning experience,” said Ben Hayhurst, who will graduate in May with a finance degree. “Rather than go back and look at some random historical data, what we’re in right now will be in textbooks 10, 15 years from now. And I don’t want to say that’s exciting, but it’s interesting to be living through it and watching it.”

Like Kaiser, Hayhurst is just beginning to send out job applications. Both said they planned to ramp up their efforts beginning in January.

Hayhurst is focusing on a career centered around investments, something his internship with an Indianapolis brokerage firm could help with. The field is broad enough, he said, that he’s continuously learning of new opportunities or hearing about companies with ties to the university that could lead to an entry-level job.

Considering all available options is a top strategy Maryann Coty recommends to students.

As director of AU’s career development center, Coty prepares pending graduates across all disciplines to transition into the work force, a task that has brought increased challenges for students.

“It’s just a lot more competitive,” she said.

Compared to six percent of surveyed companies saying they were hiring new graduates in the spring, Coty said, only one percent report such hiring efforts now.

Along with going after fewer jobs, new graduates must compete against more experienced professionals who have recently been laid off, she said.

Younger job seekers “have to look at what they can offer, and the things that they can bring as a new graduate is youth and enthusiasm and new skill sets that maybe they’ve learned in the classroom,” Coty said.

She has advised students to look for jobs in expanding industries, fields like health care, technology or alternative energy. And Coty said a tough job market means students have to be experts at selling themselves to employers.

“They really have to make sure that their resumes and their interviewing skills are really sharp, and that they can really bring out their strengths,” she said.

Part of that confidence, students said, has come from preparation offered by the university.

Kaiser noted that the anticipation of leaving school and entering the working world is less nerve racking that the feelings she had four years ago as an inexperienced college freshman.

And if an ideal museum gig in Chicago doesn’t come her way, Kaiser said she’s prepared to take other avenues.

“Apply as many places you can and hope something opens up,” she said of her job-search approach.

“Apply, apply, apply. Don’t just bank on one company.”

—Barrett Newkirk is a reporter for the Herald Bulletin. Story republished with permission.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,750 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.