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Campus resources provide students with guidance in midst of recession

February 12, 2009

With the national unemployment rate rising to 7.6 percent last week, recent and upcoming college graduates face the daunting task of job-hunting in the midst of an economic recession.

And after employers nationwide eliminated 598,000 jobs in January, UW-River Falls graduates will be up against more students for fewer positions.

“The first group of graduates to really face the effects of this poor economy just graduated in December, so as a professor I haven’t really gotten any reports back yet about the difficulties they’ve been facing,” UWRF economics professor John Walker said.

Beginning around 1999 and up until recent years, UWRF business graduates generally had no problem finding jobs in booming areas such as mid-level management, according to Walker. However, he admits that is no longer the case.

“I suppose business administration, management and even marketing graduates will have trouble finding jobs,” he said. “It’s just too tough and competitive out there.”

Megan Leoni, who graduated from UWRF with a degree in marketing communications in December, said she has not yet found a job that pertains to what she wants to do with her degree.

“I began searching a few months ago, but so far I’ve only found telemarketing jobs which really isn’t what I want to do,” she said. “I think it’s tougher finding jobs in my field right now because a lot of companies aren’t really advertising much.”

On the other hand, fellow December 2008 graduate Cassandra Vogt said that she has had success in finding a job that works with her degree.

“I work at Positive Alternatives with teenagers and have a degree in psychology,” she said. “I did not job hunt for more than a few weeks [and] have been working there since November.”

Walker said that students should look for something that helps them stand out against the masses of job-seekers, and that a polished résumé can go a long way.

He said he encourages students to utilize Career Services. The department offers free assistance to both students and alumni looking for help with developing cover letters and résumés, according to Krista Kasten, a UWRF senior and student staff member of Career Services.

“My recommendation for students would be to come to Career Services and let us help you nail that interview so you can be the best you can be and get that job,” she said. “Recent graduates or those graduating in May know that there’s not that many jobs out there, so it’s important to do anything you can to make yourself more valuable to employers.”

Career Services held the first ever “Career Destination” on Feb. 5 to help students find on-campus positions for the summer and next school year. Kasten said that 163 students attended the event in the University Center Ballroom, but noted that it was directed more towards freshmen, sophomore and junior students.

“[Career Destination] wasn’t really geared towards seniors…we do however hold a career fair every fall where we bring in outside employers to help upperclassmen find jobs,” she said.

In addition to those events, Career Services also offers career workshops and events, such as the annual Etiquette Dinner, Runway to Success and the Networking Social, according to the Career Services Web site.

Leoni said she did not go to Career Services for help, but knows the importance of a good résumé and cover letter.

“I tweaked it [her résumé] after graduation and included my final GPA,” she said. “As for my cover letters, I always try to tailor them to the specific company I’m applying to and try to do a little research on the company.”

Vogt said she agrees.

“I went to Career Services and they helped me to maximize my customer service [experience] on my résumé and outline my research experience and coursework,” she said.

Kasten also said that, aside from résumés and cover letters, career counselors and peer advisers can be invaluable resources in helping students find jobs.

“Counselors and peer advisers are great ways for students to find jobs to apply for,” she said. “I also encourage students to attend the Networking Social, because creating professional relationships and contacts can really help.”

Walker said he thinks it is important that students take advantage of the free career resources on campus, and that graduates should not get too discouraged if they are not able to find jobs right away.

“I would tell graduates who are having trouble finding jobs to not take it personally,” he said. “It’s really tough right now, but just hang in there.”