CAREER OPPORTUNITIES Grads, Seniors Face Difficult Job Market By Tracy Zupancis Hoya Staff Writer

Charles Nailen/The Hoya The MBNA Career Education Center will be the site of Wednesday’s career fair.

Because of the economic slowdown which began earlier this year and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, recent and prospective graduates now face a more difficult job market than that of recent years.

According to Executive Director of the MBNA Career Education Center Sylvia Robinson, the economic boom of the last five to eight years caused many companies to overhire, and as the economy slows, jobs are being cut and recruiting has decreased.

“We already are getting a sense from employers that there’s going to be at least a 25 to 30 percent downturn in hiring,” she said. “It’s a real contrast because we’ve had such a booming market for the last five to eight years . we’re looking for a turnaround in 2002, but that’s not helping right now.”

In contrast to recent years, Robinson said, students will be aggressively seeking jobs as opposed to being aggressively recruited by employers.

For this Wednesday’s Career Fair, she said, the Center is expecting at least as many students and recent alumni to attend as did last year, when attendance was around 3,000.

“We just know that this year is going to be very competitive,” Robinson said. “My advice is to be prepared. This is not a year to have any errors in resumes or cover letters. Students need to do their homework about why they are interested in a company, why their qualifications mesh with the employer’s needs, and need to use their contact networks – family, friends, neighbors who might help make connections for students in their companies. You just don’t want to depend on one or two leads this year.”

James J. Dixey, associate director of employer and alumni relations for the Career Center, said that both Accenture and KPMG have canceled their attendance at this year’s Career Fair, while others are cutting back the number of recruiters.

“There are fewer positions available and fewer signing bonuses,” he said. “Whether we want to believe it or not, things have changed. A lot of companies were on hiring binges, and lots of them came to the realization they weren’t hiring based on business realities.”

Dixey also noted that since Sept. 11 there has been a surge of student interest in defense and intelligence agencies, which are hiring more people than in the past.

“Intelligence has been allowed to fall apart,” he said. “What’s happening now is that they’re building up what should have already been there.”

Dixey said he advises students interested in military and defense to be sure they aren’t trying for the job “until things pass.”

“It’s tough work, and unrewarding in many ways, but you are really committing yourself to the country. If a student is really serious, I would say they should consider it, but if not they aren’t approaching that sort of job the right way.”

Dixey noted jobs such as Teach for America or the Peace Corps are also available to students who want to work for the larger community.

Both Dixey and Robinson said that despite what looks to be an increase in government hiring, the amount of interest generated by the war will nevertheless make such jobs competitive.

“Lots of students and alums are expressing interest in grad school,” Robinson said. “More are coming into the Career Center to talk about the possibility of grad school. Often when there is an economic downturn people look to other options like that.”

Erin Jennings (COL ’00) said many people she knows are considering returning to school after being let go during broad-based layoffs.

Jennings, who began working for US Bancorp Piper Jaffray in June of 2000, lost her job in the company’s second round of layoffs. The first, in March, eliminated 11 percent of the company’s workforce.

“I think the layoffs were planned before Sept. 11 but were pushed back,” she said. “Obviously no one wanted to be the first to lay off after that.”

Jennings said her company “had just hired too many people. The layoffs weren’t performance based, and my company wasn’t special. Everyone is laying off.”

She added that most of her friends are already on their second jobs since graduation.

“I think it will take four to six months to find another job,” Jennings said, and noted that the San Francisco Bay area, where she lives, has been hit especially hard.

“I worked in the tech sector,” she said, “with a lot of what were dot-coms that went under. I can’t even get parking at the laundromat in the middle of the day because everyone around here is laid off.”

Alexis Bortone (MSB ’01) got a job with Gap last February. In June, a week before she was supposed to move across the country from New York, she was called and told that her entire training class had been cut.

“It was strange because when you get a position in February, you aren’t job-oriented. I hadn’t thought about it for a long time . when it happened, my stuff was already on a truck being shipped there,” she said.

Bortone moved in with a friend in New York, and made looking for a job her “full time job,” she said. “I interviewed three times a day, and it took a month to find something else. I was a marketing major, and advertising jobs are hard to come by, so I was waiting for an opening. I was lucky when this job opened up.”

After Sept. 11, she says New York city’s job market is unusual. “While things are opening up because people want to get out of New York, business has really declined, so it seems to even out,” she said.

Bortone noted that even people with jobs should have a backup plan. “What I learned from losing my job is that I can’t limit my options, but it isn’t a hopeless situation,” she said. “Even now I am looking out for other opportunities.”

Mike Stein (MSB ’02) said seniors seemed tenser than usual concerning the job market.

“It seems like companies are coming to campus, but giving fewer jobs. There’s a general sense of anxiety among students that’s a lot higher than it has been,” he said. “People are getting jobs though, they just have to be more aggressive.”

Stein also noted that as a business school student, he feels more prepared to deal with the hiring process.

“While other schools are kind of thrown into E-recruiting and the Career Center, a lot of business students had to do all of it last year for internships,” he said, adding, “things are also made easier for finance majors, because all those companies come to campus. For other types of jobs you may have to look more actively.”

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