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Job market poses challenges for grads

April 7, 2011

Paul Odeen graduated from UW-River Falls in December with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Now he spends his days helping shoppers and working in the backroom at Target.

Odeen, 24, has joined the ranks of other recent college graduates who are searching for full-time work in their chosen field.

Armed only with a degree and little real-world experience, the task can be difficult.

So far Odeen has not received any replies from potential employers.

Speaking specifically about students from the UWRF College of Business and Economics, Department Chair Hamid Tabesh said the challenges for graduates are real.

“The job market for our graduates is not as strong as it used to be prior to the 2007 or 2008 period,” Tabesh said. “The job market is tighter now, so they do have a harder time to find jobs.”

But there is some hope.

According to the latest figures released by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, unemployment in the U.S. fell slightly in March to 8.8 percent, and is down by more than one percent from this time last year.

For college graduates, the outlook is even brighter. The unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree is 4.4 percent, or half that of the general labor force.

Although the economy is showing signs of improvement, Tabesh recommended that students build up their resumes as much as possible.

“They have to really be stronger students,” Tabesh said. “They have to do well for employers to want to hire you.”

Tabesh said this means building strong communication skills, being trained in the art of interviewing and creating a rounded portfolio with extracurricular activities like internships.

“Students with internship experience have had a better chance of getting jobs than those who have not,” Tabesh said.

UWRF alumna Rachel Carlson said internships were vital to her success after graduation.

Carlson, 24, graduated in December 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing communications.

She was required to have an internship for her major, which she completed in the marketing department of a local grocery chain. She continues to work in that department part-time.

“I feel really thankful to get that, because it put me into a position where I could use what I learned in school,” Carlson said.

Odeen, whose major did not require an internship, said that he regrets not seeking one out prior to graduating.

“I wish I would have tried getting an internship,” he said. “Something to get my foot in the door somewhere so I wasn’t running around trying to find something now.”

Besides internships, it is also helpful for students to build a network of associates from whom they can glean opportunities.

“The networking is so important,” said Brian Schultz, the assistant dean of the College of Business and Economics. “You never quite know what those connections will lead to.”

Schultz recommended that students make use of the Career Services Office at UWRF.

According to its website, Career Services gives students “expertise, resources and support” to “empower individuals to make and implement well-conceived career/life plans.” This includes a variety of free assistance programs like career counseling, electronic job
postings and special events to prepare students for job interviews.

One such event, the Mock Interview Day, will be held on April 13.

It gives students an opportunity to conduct a 30-minute interview with a real employer to practice their skills, according to the Career Services website.

Carlson said she regrets not participating in mock interviewing the most.

“That’s a really cool service, and not enough people take advantage of that,” Carlson said. “I wish I did that.”