Job search proves tough
Published: Sunday, December 4, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
On paper, graduate Lisa Collins is doing everything right.
She graduated in May 2011 as a double major in advertising and journalism with honors in liberal arts.
Her resume is brimming with internships at prestigious publications like D Magazine, ELLE magazine, PaperCity Magazine and The Lance Armstrong Foundation.
As the former arts and entertainment editor for The Daily Campus and The Daily Mustang, Collins was actively involved on campus and held several jobs while in school.
So why is she having such a tough time finding a job?
Collins' frustration is shared by countless other bright college graduates.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of August 2011, 9.1 percent of the U.S. labor force was unemployed.
Of those individuals, 4.3 percent are college graduates with at least a bachelor's degree.
Collins may be in luck, though, if she is persistent.
In March, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that 53 percent of employers intended to hire more college graduates from the class of 2011 than from the class of 2010.
Also, NACE's Fall 2011 Salary Survey indicates that the average salary offer to 2011 graduates rose 6 percent over last year's average, from $48,288 to $51,171.
Hegi Family Career Development Center Director Darin Ford says that statistics regarding the employment rate of recent SMU graduates are unavailable, but there are reasons for students to stay positive.
"Overall, we are seeing an increase in employer activity on campus and a slight increase in job postings on MustangTrak," he said.
While these percentages are hopeful indicators of a recovery on the horizon, many students remain wary.
"I consider myself very lucky to be heading into an internship," Jack Benage, an accounting major who received an offer from KPMG, one of the largest accounting firms in the nation, back in April, said. "It has certainly made me feel more comfortable about graduating early."
Benage said that his ability to get a job after graduation was one of the factors in his decision to major in accounting.
"You almost take it for granted after it's there, but it is so satisfying," Benage said about landing the internship. "I don't have to worry about looking for a job."
Graduates like Collins remain undeterred.
Having consistently applied to a variety of communications-oriented positions over the last several months, she says that the time spent on the hunt has allowed her to explore options she wouldn't have otherwise thought to consider.
"There are companies and industries I had never even heard of before that I've realized could be interesting to work in and gotten to learn a lot more about," she said.
Prior to graduating, Collins did a summer fellowship with a communications consulting firm where she worked for one of its clients in the Dallas area.
"I was definitely hoping that it would turn into a full-time job, but unfortunately they did not have any available positions by the end of my fellowship," she said.
Collins says that the most frustrating part of her search has been the digital job sites and applications.
"I find myself getting really excited if I find a job online that sounds interesting, then I'll spend hours on an application and the next day the position has already been filled and the job is taken down," she said.
Collins also says she's found that as a recent graduate, she doesn't have enough work experience that employers want to see.
"In the industries I want to work in, there is not typically a lot of college recruiting and positions are filled on an as-needed basis," she said.
SMU senior Pat Traver, who graduates in December, finds herself in a similar predicament.
An English major, Traver came close to getting a job as a video editor when she became one of two candidates to reach the final round of interviews.
Unfortunately, she didn't come away with an offer.
"I could tell that he didn't want to let me go," she said of the company's hiring manager. "There are just more good people than there are open positions."
Traver believes that in such a competitive job market, graduates are going to have to get creative if they want to find a job.
"I've always just had to create opportunities for myself, I don't know why I expected it to be any different career wise," she said.
Traver is starting to feel the pressure mounting as graduation gets closer.
"As far as a safety net, I don't really have one and that's terrifying," she said. "I don't have a source of income to go off of at this point."
While Traver says that her parents are willing to help, it is important for her to become financially independent quickly, as they will soon be putting her younger sister through college.
Having taken out a considerable amount in student loans, it makes finding a job all the more imperative.
"Clearly everyone wants that perfect job. But at this point, I just need something that's going to pay my bills," she said.
Traver says that she was told to reapply for the video editing position, which she will probably do but will continue looking at other options in the meantime.
"If you can get to a point where you have a job, then you can still continue looking for one," she said.
Joy Schwartz, a career coach at the SMU Cox BBA Career Management Center, says that in a competitive job market, graduating students need to be resourceful and dedicated when it comes to their job search.