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Sarasota Thursday, Jun. 11, 2009 11 years ago

College graduates: Where are they now?

by: Loren Mayo Black Tie Editor

So you have a degree, now what? Unemployed college grads are doing everything they can to keep from sinking. From switching off the air conditioner to applying for part-time jobs, they’re realizing times are tough.

University of South Florida graduates Dennis and Carolyn Hadden have applied to jobs all over the country. Even after sending out an estimated 500 resumes, the couple still can’t find work — and they have five kids to support.

Hadden, 39, enrolled in 2007 at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus after serving in Desert Storm. He will graduate this summer with a bachelor’s degree in management-information systems, but no job.

“The pickings are very slim,” Hadden said. “It’s mainly a lack of work out there. I’ve even applied for internships but been turned down because other people were more qualified.”

Hadden has applied for jobs at Lowe’s and Home Depot, but both companies told him they are looking for employees with master’s and doctorate degrees.

“Today, online, there was a management position at Tire Kingdom, in Bradenton,” Hadden said Tuesday, June 9. “They wanted a four-year degree and were only paying $12 an hour.”

Hadden thinks the employer has a huge advantage right now because the job pool is so large. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of unemployed people age 25 and up with a bachelor’s degree or higher rose from 939,000 in May 2008 to 2,167,000 in May 2009 — that’s a 131% increase.

Hadden has been seeking employment for the last year. He doesn’t receive unemployment, even though he was laid off last December.

“I filed for it late last year, and they turned me down because I was in school,” Hadden said.

But Veterans Affairs pays for Hadden’s tuition costs, because he’s 50% disabled.

Carolyn Hadden receives no unemployment, either. The couple decided 12 years ago that she would be a stay-at-home mom, when her husband was doing well enough to support the family. She elected to continue her education a few years ago, and, in 2006, completed her bachelor’s degree in accounting at USF.

The family was able to make its most recent house payment, but a $2,500 payment is due this month, and there’s only $400 in Hadden’s bank account.

“I don’t know where it’s going to come from,” Hadden said.

Some students have relied on luck.

Krissy Chapman graduated from USF a few weeks ago with a bachelor’s degree in management-information systems — the same degree as Hadden. Chapman says because jobs in that field are being outsourced to India, she’s back in school part-time for a second degree, in accounting. She also just landed a new job as a business analyst at CSC Business Solutions, Technology and Outsourcing, in Sarasota.

Out of 1,118 applicants, Chapman got the position.

“I got lucky with this one,” Chapman said.

Her advice for job seekers is to use all available resources.

“If I had to give any advice out, I would say what made me stand out is the resources I used at USF,” Chapman said. “You can go online, create an electronic portfolio and send employers a link to it. I put my class work on the site because I had no experience and set up appointments to go over my resume.”

Last semester, the Career Resource Center at USF helped 228 students on their job search and helped 168 students on both their job searches and cover letters.

Toni Ripo, a career-services coordinator at USF, says one student turned off her air-conditioner to save money and has made a job-field change, but has yet to gain employment.

Ripo says you can’t just send one resume out to an employer and expect the job. Instead, she recommends showing the employer you’re a good match for the job.

“If the job needs Excel, your resume has got to say Excel,” Ripo said. “Your communication skills have got to match, and the next step is to research the company and demonstrate that you’ve tailored your cover letter to it.”

In May, the National Association of Colleges and Employers reported that fewer than 20% of 2009 grads who have applied for a job actually have one.

But, Ripo says there are nuggets of hope — graduates just have to be on top of the job search.

As a general rule of thumb, by the time a job hits the online world, the competition increases. Ripo and other career coordinators teach graduates how to write resumes, how to contact employers and what to say.

“You need to be the first person to know if a job is available and introduce yourself to the manager of the department you want to work for,” Ripo said.

Charles Kovacs, the director of career services for Ringling College of Art and Design, agrees that the job search depends on the student.

“We — and Ringling — can’t do anything,” Kovacs said. “It’s how the student chooses to use the resources and effectiveness to determine their success.”

For instance, if a student or alumni wants a job working in the computer-animation industry in California, Kovacs can locate a job on the job site EmployON and send it to the person electronically.

“One student wanted an interior design job in Tennessee,” Kovacs said. “I sent her a mini directory of every design firm there.”

Again, Kovacs emphasizes that, yes, he can find the job or internship, but it’s how the student applies for the job that determines success.

“The economy is neither good nor bad —  it is what it is,” Kovacs said. “How the students engage these prophecies and services … they can use it as an excuse for inactivity or grasp on to what we have here.”

Ringling graduate Matt Crotts completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration May 8. He spent his senior year applying to nearly 30 companies in California, New York, Ohio, and Missouri, and received a response from eight. Of those, only four companies expressed interest by asking for his work samples, but all ultimately informed him they weren’t hiring.

“An arts company told me in March they were interested,” Crotts said. “It wasn’t secured, but I felt like it was something.”

Two weeks ago, Creative Arts Unlimited, in St. Petersburg, hired him to help with educational illustration.
Only one other student out of 80 from Crotts’ major has found a job.

“It’s a great first job,” Crotts said. “It’s not what I wanted to go into or an industry I ever dreamed of, but it’s nice. It’s good for two or three years.”

Crotts is living with two roommates, but says reduced rent doesn’t make up for spending $400 each month to drive back and forth from St. Pete to Sarasota. His goal is to find a place to live in St. Pete as soon as possible.

“We’re all just trying to keep our heads above water,” Crotts said.

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