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Job hunt leads alums back to school

Recent college graduates having trouble finding work in a tight job market are seeking help from their alma mater's career counselors.

©Associated Press
February 9, 2003


NEW BRITAIN, Conn. -- College seniors are finding some unexpected company this semester as they visit their schools' career services offices: alumni who also want help landing a job in a slow economy.

"Not a day goes by that I don't have an alum on my calendar," said Patricia Deloy, the director of career services at Central Connecticut State University. She's not alone.

Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, responded to the influx of alumni by establishing an online career networking program especially for the school's graduates.

At the University of Pennsylvania, alumni account for 15 percent of the clients seeking career counseling, up from 10 percent who used the service when the economy was strong.

Penn's career service director, Patricia Rose, said most of the alumni she sees have graduated within the past five years.

While Deloy said some of the alumni coming to her office left Central Connecticut as long as 25 years ago, the majority, like Keryn Walczewski, attended more recently.

Walczewski graduated in May and went to work as an intern for the state of Connecticut's education department.

After her position as a computer specialist turned into a full-time job, Walczewski in quick order bought a new car, got engaged and planned to set aside money to buy a house. Then, on the same December day she received her first paycheck as a full-time employee, Walczewski learned she had been laid off.

"I didn't think I'd be back here so fast," she said, sitting in Deloy's office.

With the National Association of Colleges and Employers forecasting a 3.6 percent decline in hiring out of colleges this spring, Deloy fears many in the class of 2003 will share Walczewski's difficulty.

The Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University projects that students entering the fields of construction, retail, transportation (excluding airlines) and food and lodging will fare the best. Jobs in the financial service, wholesaling, finance and government sectors are expected to decline this year, the institute said.

Deloy and other career counselors say corporate recruiters are still visiting campuses but are offering far fewer jobs than they did four years ago when the economy was expanding.

Misty Morrison, whose research convinced her that majoring in management information systems would make a job in the technology sector easy to get, is among the Central Connecticut seniors yet to find work in their fields.

If she doesn't land a job in an information technology department soon, Morrison is resigned to returning to the secretarial job she held after high school, before attending Central Connecticut.

"I wanted to better myself, and now I feel like I'm stuck in the same position," she said.

Morrison has the sympathy of Camille Luckenbaugh, a spokeswoman for the colleges and employers association.

"It may be way harder for these kids because they have seen the tremendous market that was out there," Luckenbaugh said.

"These are kids who know kids who went out and may have made millions in the dot-coms. And now they can't get a job. It's definitely a harsh reality that a lot of them are facing."

Deloy expects that overall job prospects will get worse before they get better.

Threats of war and further terrorism coupled with corporate scandals, rising employer health insurance costs and retirements postponed by depleted stock portfolios have made this the deepest downturn Deloy has witnessed in 20 years as a career counselor.

"Our best indicator is that the phones aren't ringing" with calls from employers, Deloy said. "It's too quiet, and we don't like it when it's quiet."

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