No job lined up? Try going to grad school

Kristyn Soltis

With nearly 1.5 million bachelor’s degrees awarded each year in the United States, the competition to find a job after school could be tough.

In case that’s not tough enough, employers are expected to hire 22 percent fewer graduates than they did in 2008, according to a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

This drop will end the pattern of positive college hiring reports since 2004. While almost all disciplines have decided to cut back on their hiring projections, government jobs will take more graduates in 2009 than 2008.

This fact is not making Andrea Burkhart, a political science and international relations major, any less concerned about finding a career after she graduates in May 2009.

“I am interning for the federal government now at the U.S. Department of Justice, and I have noticed how competitive government jobs are, especially entry level,” Burkhart said.

“Students should have a backup plan,” said Hobson Hamilton Jr., assistant director of the Career Services Center. “Target alternate but solid entry positions, and seek upward mobility to gain the position of choice in the field of interest.”

As a backup plan, Burkhart is thinking about the Green Corps Graduate Program, a master’s program that involves working on environmental campaigns.

“Recent graduates who are unable to find employment would be wise to consider continuing their education,” said Evelyn Goldsmith, interim dean of Graduate Studies, in an e-mail.

In fact, spring enrollment at Kent State’s graduate level is up 6 percent from Spring 2008, and the number of new applications for next fall are up in every college, by varying degrees.

“Six months or so after graduation, students who took out loans to help fund their undergraduate studies will start hearing from those loan agencies regarding loan repayment,” Goldsmith said. “When students enter graduate school, on at least a part-time basis, repayment is suspended for as long as the graduate student is making sufficient progress toward their degree completion.”

Some students may be able to attain graduate assistantships at the master’s level, which may carry a full-tuition waiver, partial payment of student insurance, as well as a biweekly stipend meaning less debt accumulation.

“And probably the biggest reason a student should strongly consider graduate studies is that when they do enter the workforce, the salary differential between a bachelor’s qualified applicant versus one with a master’s degree can be as much as $25,000,” Goldsmith said. “Take that number and multiply it over the span of a 35- or 40-year career, and the value of a graduate degree becomes very clear.”

Matthew Shumaker entered the job market when he graduated in May 2008 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing and a minor in management.

Shumaker didn’t have a job lined up after his graduation but spent time volunteering with numerous charities and working odd jobs to pay the bills. He ended up using his small business and marketing skills while he helped his brother open a record store, Phonographic Arts, in the Tremont art district of Cleveland.

Although Shumaker wasn’t being paid for his work at Phonographic Arts, he said students shouldn’t be afraid to work for free or intern to gain experience.

“Helping my brother open his record store turned into a gem on my resume, and I wasn’t getting paid a dime for it,” Shumaker said.

“I hope that students will try to secure internships that may lead to full-time positions,” Hamilton said. “This implies that students should begin their job search process sooner.”

Hamilton also suggests students consider relocation to create greater opportunities for employment.

Shumaker received a job offer in marketing a few months later from his aunt’s company in Arizona. He credits the “hidden job market,” otherwise known as networking, for being the best way to find a job.

“Pretty much everyone I know that had a job when they graduated got the initial interview because they had a friend or a relative or a friend of a relative, or vice versa, that got their foot in the door,” Shumaker said.

Shumaker suggests dusting off the old address book and getting in touch with people who work for companies you are interested in. Or take Goldsmith’s advice and continue education until hiring projections increase.

“The economy will turn around eventually. If you cannot find work now, why not use this time to enhance your skills and future earning power?” Goldsmith said.

Contact student finance reporter Kristyn Soltis at [email protected].