Career Guide PRSA News

Would You Trade Places With a 2009 College Graduate?

What was the economy like when you graduated from college?

After reading comments to an article I wrote for the latest issue of PR Tactics about what the 1974 recession can teach us today, I realized that most college grads remember in great detail their post-graduation job search. In the article, I shared personal recollections on my 1974 graduation in the midst of a severe recession, and reflected on how little I knew then about the unique challenges of finding a job during a recession.

Everybody had a story to tell, and people shared their stories with me through calls and e-mails, telling me about their job search experiences. Everyone remembered with amazing clarity the challenges they faced. Most recalled the experience as a moment in time that ranked with other life-changing events — births, deaths and marriage.

That’s something worth remembering as we near the May ceremonies for our 2009 grads. They’re approaching one of life’s most memorable moments and, in today’s economic climate, it’s sure to take on large, if not unprecedented, dimensions.

A recent report in Business Week stated that “undergraduate hiring is expected to plummet this spring.” The magazine was reporting on a study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), which expects employers to hire 22 percent fewer grads this year over last year. That’s not as bad as it was after 9/11, but some economists expect the current downturn will last longer.

I feel their pain, as does just about anyone who ever received a rejection.

So what can those of us among the still-employed do? I have several thoughts:

  • Offer informational interviews until it hurts. I still can remember people who were willing to visit with me and offer wise counsel, even when they didn’t have a job opportunity to offer. It kept me motivated and helped me learn, even while unemployed.
  • Prepare handouts to steer recent grads in the right direction.  Articles offering interviewing tips and ideas on resume preparation might be helpful. Maybe you have a list of companies and industry contacts that might be useful.  Whatever the item, give them something tangible to provide direction they might not have considered.
  • At the end of an informational interview, offer constructive counsel on tips that might help them do a better job in their interviews. And, offer something constructive about what they did well during your conversation. It’s very likely they’re a bit in the dumps and could use some positive reinforcement.
  • Offer to take a phone call a few weeks down the road to provide additional counsel as their job search evolves.

Many of us have walked in these shoes. And, many of us have sons and daughters who are about to. If we all pitch in, we can raise their spirits and boost their chances during this particularly challenging time.

Tom Eppes, APR, Fellow PRSA, is 2009 Treasurer of PRSA
Senior Partner, EMA Charlotte General Manager

10 Comments

  • Yikes, I am definitely feeling the pressure as May comes. I am finishing my M.A., and I had quick success after doing my undergraduate degree in finding a job, but not so much this time around. I’ve actually had employers send e-mails notifying applicants that vacancies have been canceled and NO ONE was getting the job. I’m starting to wish I had applied to Ph.D. programs, but I’m going to hang in there and keep trying!

    http://www.prjosh.com

  • I would not want to trade places with current graduates. I graduated from college myself in 2006 (I went to an adult degree completion program), and it was scary then to enter the job force in this new practice of PR that I was trained in.
    I’m thankful to have a job, and I am still job-searching for entry-level PR positions in the Twin Cities in an agency setting.
    All I can say to upcoming graduates is, hang in there. The market will get better. America is resilient. Hang in there.

  • I just lost my job earlier this month but, at 36 years old, I may have perspective on the economy that college graduates won’t not share. For instance, I remember earlier in my career when I was excited about receiving attractive job offers. And even now, with some experience in the job force, I am looking into the possibility of a freelance teaching gig that I did about 10 years ago. My earlier experiences in the workforce helped me learn how to network, supplied me with a seasoned professional network of colleagues to whom I can turn for career-search tips, etc. I also have been in the workforce long enough to know that times aren’t always bad but that the current downturn is part of a cycle and that this, too, shall pass. I would not want to trade places with college graduates due to the challenges and frustrations many of them will surely face without memories of earlier more positive times in the workforce. For their sake, I hope things turn around sooner rather than later. Joe

  • I will earn my master’s this May, and I have been looking for a job for the last two months. Nothing has surfaced so far. I even created a digital portfolio as a way to share samples of my work- and nothing. However, I have been offered a few potential freelance and volunteer opportunities via LinkedIn. I feel confident I will find something. I went ahead and applied for a few internships as well.

  • I am an August 2008 grad, I was employed right out of school, but was then laid off. Finding another job at the start of my career is near impossible. I fear it will just be worse for my friends graduating in May.

  • I just lost my job earlier this month but, at 36 years old, I may have perspective on the economy that college graduates won’t not share. For instance, I remember earlier in my career when I was excited about receiving attractive job offers. And even now, with some experience in the job force, I am looking into the possibility of a freelance teaching gig that I did about 10 years ago. My earlier experiences in the workforce helped me learn how to network, supplied me with a seasoned professional network of colleagues to whom I can turn for career-search tips, etc. I also have been in the workforce long enough to know that times aren’t always bad but that the current downturn is part of a cycle and that this, too, shall pass. I would not want to trade places with college graduates due to the challenges and frustrations many of them will surely face without memories of earlier more positive times in the workforce. For their sake, I hope things turn around sooner rather than later. Joe

  • I have a daughter in the high school senior grade, and she is good in English and writing, and would like to study either PR or journalism. It is going to be very hard for us to send her to college( preferably in the San Francisco Bay area). Are there any advises we can take from your experience?

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