Qualified students shine in downturn


The economy is down and unemployment is approaching record highs, but some experts say work is still available for qualified graduates who prepare for the fierce job market.

A recent poll found 76 percent of recruiters agree the recession is an opportunity to bring in higher quality job candidates, while 53 percent expect their companies to hire fewer employees in the first half of 2009, according to a study by Jobfox.com, a career recruiting Web site.

Barry Lawrence, Jobfox spokesman, said jobs are available right now for qualified students because many of the jobs being cut are industrial-type jobs, not the positions usually pursued by college students.

But with the current condition of the economy, graduates are becoming less finicky in employment pursuits.

Bruce Turner, assistant director of academic services at the Academic Center for Excellence, said he hasn’t noticed any real concern in the freshmen and sophomores he advises.

He said paying too much attention to the economic crisis when making decisions about future courses is not a good idea.

But many juniors and seniors at UNF are becoming increasingly worried about the job market, and some are even changing majors, said Paula Michaeldass, UNF career counselor.

These factors are also affecting the career path of recent UNF graduates.

Melissa Dixon graduated from UNF this past August with a journalism degree.  After graduation she went to work in London, but after discovering her work visa did not go through, she was forced to move to New York City.

Dixon has been in New York for three weeks and is desperately looking for a job.  Her first week there, Dixon applied only to communication-based organizations, but she has become a lot less picky.

“If you asked me a year ago, I would have said that my dream was to work for a major media organization like a major TV network or a major newspaper … but in these hard times, any employer that is willing to take a risk … I will be happy to be employed with,” Dixon said.

In many cases, internship experience can be the deciding factor between applicants, regardless of GPA.

Many companies are still referring to the rule: “past experience is future experience,” Lawrence said.

At UNF, advisers continue to tell students of the impact that internships and timely preparation can have.

One of the most important components in securing a job has to do with a student’s experience, Career Services Director Rick Roberts said.  Whether it’s through an internship or through volunteer positions, experience is the most valuable thing to have when looking for a job.

“The internships are huge; it gives you a chance to try things out and get experience and have people that can talk about your work,” he said.  “If you don’t have experience you’re going to have a risk; it’s a leap of faith for [employers] to hire you.”

The advisers at the Career Services office at UNF work to help graduating students find a job by helping students with resumes, interviewing skills and job searches.  Their goal is to ensure UNF graduates don’t end up with a great education but no job prospects.

Michaeldass said good GPAs also help students who might not be able to find jobs gain admission into graduate schools and become more qualified job candidates.

“It is important for freshmen to figure out what career they want to pursue as soon as possible,” Michaeldass said. “The earlier that student begins the internship process, the better.”

E-mail Josh Gore and Katherine Acosta
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