When Ashley Anderson graduated in December 2008 with a BA in marketing, she expected to send out a few resumes before she found a job in her field.
But four months, 500 resumes, and countless interviews later, Ashley was happy to land the only job she could-- a customer service position with a computer software company. A far cry from the entry-level fashion marketing gig she’d dreamed of.
Ashley is just one of thousands of college students graduating into one of the toughest job markets in decades. This year, employers expect to hire fewer recent grads. And those who do score jobs will earn less than they would have had they graduated just a year ago.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers expect to hire 22 percent fewer new grads in 2009 than they actually hired from the Class of 2008. And starting salaries for the class of 2009 are down 2.2 percent.
“More than two-thirds of employers said the economic situation forced them to reevaluate their college hiring plans, and nearly all of those said they have decreased their planned number of hires,” said Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director, in a press release.
Ashley, a University of Hartford graduate who was searching for a job in New York City, said at first she looked for a job in marketing. When that failed, she started applying to banks, since she had experience working as a teller during college. Finally, she said, she just applied for anything she could—receptionist, assistant, customer service representative and other positions that normally wouldn’t require a college degree.
“I made trying to find a job my full time job,” Ashley said. “I would go to certain websites everyday and constantly keep refreshing the page all day -- and when a new job would pop up I would apply for it.”
But she wasn't the only one hitting the "refresh" button. When she finally landed the customer service job, her new boss told her that she was lucky to have been chosen—the company had received more than 250 resumes within the first hour of posting the job on Craigslist. Many of the applicants held Master’s degrees and there was a recent Harvard grad who’d also applied.
“This is not where I pictured myself being when I graduated,” Ashley said. “But this is the only choice I have.”
But not every field has been strongly affected by the recession. Accounting and Engineering majors are still in demand and hiring rates in those fields are holding strong despite the economy, a NACE survey shows.
Still, many employers aren’t optimistic about the future. More than 46 percent said they are unsure about their hiring plans for fall 2009, and 17 percent are already reporting that they expect to trim further their college hiring, NACE reports.
And while the economy is in a slump, so are the once optimistic and bright-eyed college graduates, now soured by the tough job market.
“I got my degree in the mail, but I haven’t even looked at it,” Ashley said. “I feel like it was an absolute waste of money—it has gotten me nowhere.”
So what are this recent grad’s tips for other 2009 grads?
- Start Looking Now. “If you’re graduating anytime soon, you need to have started looking for a job yesterday— you’re already late. If you procrastinate at all, it’s not going to happen.”
- Get Experience or Start at the Bottom. “Even if you have tons of experience—there’s someone out there that’s been laid off that has more experience than you. If you can afford it, do an unpaid internship after college to get experience. If you can’t afford it, like me, you have to really work your way up from the bottom.”
- Look Outside Your Field. “Of all my friends, not a single one of us got a job in our field-- except one classmate who was an accounting major. Be ready to settle for something you may not have considered before.”