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