What are the job prospects like for area graduating students? Click here to see what they have to say.
LINCOLN — Considering that Erin Reynoldson will graduate Saturday into a slow-growing job market and a sluggish economy, you might think the 22-year-old would be stressed about finding a job.
You would be mistaken.
Reynoldson, who will collect a bachelor's degree in advertising and public relations from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, already has landed a position with Archrival, a Lincoln youth marketing firm. She starts work Monday.
Reynoldson's case is an example of how college students have adapted to an entry-level job market that still hasn't fully recovered from the Great Recession of 2008-09, say career placement officials in Nebraska and Iowa.
Though job numbers have improved this year, it's still a competitive market for new graduates. Internships and other student work experiences are important tools, as is building professional contacts through student organizations and volunteer activities.
Some students, unable to land a permanent job on their career path, seek out short-term “steppingstone” jobs that they hope will connect them with future career opportunities.
Reynoldson credits networking for helping her land a job. As a student, she got involved with a campus advertising club and worked at a student-run ad agency subsidized by area businesses. Those efforts helped get her name out to potential employers.
“Everyone kind of knows everybody in advertising,” she said. “They (Archrival) sought me out from knowing people who knew me.”
Although major employers are expected to increase their hiring of new graduates by 10.5 percent this year, the job market continues to lag behind pre-recession levels, said an official with the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a professional association for campus recruiters and career planners.
The association annually surveys entry-level openings from companies that recruit college graduates.
“The market looks better, but it's not tremendously better,” said Edwin Koc, director of strategic and foundation research at the association.
Engineering, accounting and computer science graduates continue to have an easier time landing that first job than their counterparts getting degrees in liberal arts and education, he said.
Jeannine Berge, career coach at UNL's College of Business Administration, offered a similar assessment.
“It's not what I would call a hot market,” she said. “It's on the upswing and opportunities are increasing, but there's still room for improvement in the job market for business graduates.”
The college still is collecting this year's statistics, but Berge expects them to be better than last year's.
Last year, 50 percent of business college undergraduates reported that they had found a job before graduation. That was a marked improvement from 2010, when only 36 percent of business college undergraduates had landed a job.
Amy Struthers, a UNL associate professor of advertising, said the job market looks promising for students who have positioned themselves well.
“Students who are doing these things are getting great jobs,” she said.
Officials at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Iowa State University also said students are having better luck finding jobs.
“It's different for each student,” said Jessica Wolff, UNO's director of career services. “Some will say there's no jobs out there, they can't find what they're looking for. Others will find positions right away and start working toward their goal.”
Often the key is tapping into the hidden job market, finding unadvertised positions with the help of professional contacts, friends and acquaintances, she said.
Taren Crow, career services coordinator at Iowa State's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the market is looking up even for liberal arts majors, who sometimes struggle because their degree lacks the straightforward career path of engineering or accounting.
“We're seeing good things,” she said. “Our students feel like they have options and they're getting offers — and they're feeling confident in turning down an offer. In the past, there was not so much ability to pick and choose.”
Ken Hoef, 28, a UNL sociology and psychology major, said he started hunting for jobs in February and has gotten a few interviews. But no offers yet.
“I'm frustrated,” he said.
Hoef hasn't given up but said he'll probably head to graduate school if something doesn't turn up.
Finance major Josh Goding, 21, landed a financial analyst position at a subsidiary of Koch Industries in Wichita, Kan.
It was one of two jobs he applied for through Husker Hire Link, the UNL website for job postings.
“I thought it was a long shot, but I got an interview and the job,” the Fort Collins, Colo., native said.
Goding said he thinks his previous selection for U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidate School — even though a shoulder injury prevented him from finishing the program — was a factor in his getting the job. A few thousand people competed for 70 jobs and 100 internships, he said.
“It's a relief,” he said. “A lot of my friends are applying for jobs or extending their schooling.”
Graduating students discuss their job-hunting experiences
Hometown: Lindsay, Neb.
Degree: Getting a degree in marketing from UNL.
Plans: She accepted a sales representative position at Sandhills Publishing Co., where she has worked as an intern since last summer.
“I was offered the job at the end of January or February, and I took it right away,” she said. “I know a lot of my friends are having a hard time finding jobs.”
Hometown: Osceola, Neb.
Degree: Getting a degree in political science and sociology from University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Plans: He will become a regional director for Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, where he served as president while in college. The job will last one to two years. Then he'll decide his next career step, perhaps law school.
“It's a huge opportunity to travel the country and network and get paid,” he said. “Sixty percent of the people who do this end up getting jobs they want. You meet hundreds of people and prominent alumni through the fraternity. The other 40 percent don't want to settle themselves down. I might be in that group.”
Hometown: Rapid City, S.D.
Degree: Getting a degree in music performance from UNL.
Plans: A trombonist, he aims to attend a music college in Germany this fall in hopes of landing a full-time gig with a European orchestra. In the meantime, he will move back home with his parents and hunt for a short-term job.
“I'm going to have a tumultuous life,” he said. “It's not going to be a typical path. But life's too short to play it safe.”
Hometown: St. Edward, Neb.
Degree: Getting a degree in fisheries and wildlife from UNL.
Plans: He will work for the Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Project, a U.S. Geological Survey research project in northwest Montana. He was an intern with the project last year. Though the job lasts only until October, he considers it a stepping stone to a future in research field work.
“This is something I really want to do,” he said. “It's one of the world's largest studies of carnivores. I was lucky to get on it — especially being from Nebraska. I'm the only non-mountain person there. Everybody else is from the woods.”
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