Seniors face promising long-term job market
Graduating seniors tackle elusive employment prospects and competitive graduate school admissions due to an enduring economic slump and looming international conflict, but the worst conditions are probably over, according to Lee Svete, director of the Notre Dame Career Center.
The job market is "sporadic, unpredictable, and late," Svete said. Companies aren't recruiting eight months in advance as they did up until 2000, instead choosing to recruit when immediate help is needed.
"There's a wait-and-see attitude [among employers] in a market that was going to be just in time anyway," Svete said.
The 2003 Notre Dame Winter Career Fair showcased 138 companies, up from 90 in 2002, but representatives mostly offered indefinite possibilities.
This kind of vagueness generates mixed perceptions among graduating seniors.
"The job market isn't as good as it has been in the past," said senior finance and computer applications major Chrissy Costantino. She added that she feels confident that job-seeking seniors are finding jobs.
Others are less optimistic. Senior finance and political science major Mike Hewett said, "A lot of very qualified people who should've gotten jobs by now haven't."
Hewett said he lucky to have secured a position at Proctor and Gamble even after he interned there last summer.
Svete notes that summer internships before senior year and alumni networking have become more critical. Fortunately, the Career Center is more connected to alums than ever before, he said.
"A Notre Dame education is going to pay off for you, and it used to pay off much earlier in a good economy," Svete said.
Companies lack funds for new hires because top-level executives delayed retirement last year after plummeting stock market prices chopped retirement funds in half.
The economy seemed to be recovering last fall from the September 11 terrorist attacks and tech bubble bust, but world crisis with Iraq has delayed a substantial rebound.
A swift war with Iraq should boost economic growth, but drawn-out conflict could drive up manufacturing costs and threaten financial confidence because of inflated oil prices.
In the meantime, job-searchers simply need to know where to look.
"Jobs are at companies that produce real products like Rubbermaid, Proctor and Gamble, and General Mills," Svete said. "Financial services and consulting services have hit rock bottom."
Government jobs are plentiful, because a decades-long recruiting draught left them short of needed manpower after Sept. 11. A GPA of 3.5 or more automatically secures a government interview. Pharmaceutical and civil engineering industries are also actively recruiting.
Svete said early participation, multiple career paths, competitive GPAs and multiple extra-curricular activities are keys to finding a job.
Seniors are also following last year's trends and pursuing advanced degrees in the face of unemployment. Last year's record-breaking graduate school application numbers continue to climb.
"When the economy is bad, applications numbers go up. When the economy is hot, application numbers go down or level off," said John Robinson, associate dean of the Notre Dame Law School.
In 2002, law schools applications increased nationwide by 15.4 percent over the previous year, with Notre Dame Law School's numbers climbing from 1,900 to 2,900.
Robinson estimates that the Law School has already received 3,100 applications and expects around 3,500 by Apr. 1. Yet he maintains that getting into law school isn't necessarily tougher now than two years ago.
"A larger applicant pool should be irrelevant to whether students apply and where they apply," Robinson said.
This year's application increases reflect how people have applied to more schools, not simply that more people are applying, said Terrence Akai, associate dean of admissions at the Notre Dame Graduate School.
Because graduate schools attract international students, Akai clarifies that the real issue is the increase in U.S. applicants.
From 2000 to 2002, the number of U.S. applicants to the Graduate School rose by 50 percent from 1,400 to 2,100. This year's numbers are ahead of that pace, and the admissions season is still open.
The Graduate School's computer science and engineering have increase by 75 percent, chemistry has doubled and English and history programs have seen dramatic increases.
Service is another viable option after graduation, but that choice is usually made independent of economic conditions.
Notre Dame's ACE program received a record high number of applicants during 2001 and 2002, but John Staud, director of ACE, attributes that increase to ACE's new website that allows applicants to apply on-line. ACE now fields applications from 125 different universities and five continents.
"Numbers have gone up a bit this year," Staud said, "but that's not clearly a result from a job market spike."
Senior government and theology major Jeanine Valles explains that the poor economy didn't sway her decision to pursue service after graduation. She says it was something she always wanted to do.
Staud is interested to see what seniors will choose when deciding between ACE and job offers. ACE returns acceptances just after spring break and requests confirmations a week later.
"Job offers may be more appealing in a tough economy," Staud said.
Jobs may be even more attractive when baby boomers finally retire and leave high-level positions vacant.
"Students graduating after 2000 will become vice presidents and managers earlier in their careers that in past years," Svete said.
This year seniors can rely on new Career Center features like virtual career fairs, alumni mentoring, and virtual city tours.
Svete added, "If you graduate without a job, you can stay in touch with us and we'll work hard for you all summer long."
If seniors have yet to start job searching, Svete said, "It's never too late. Just realize that you need to put some time in to play some catch up."
All News Stories for Friday, February 14, 2003