Murray, KY – As the stock market rises and falls with dramatic regularity, many people have watched their jobs and savings disappear. But for college seniors graduating into the current recession, acquiring a job at all could be a problem.
"We have areas on campus that are producing graduates for jobs that, quite frankly, have been left by the wayside, if you will, in the job market simply because the demand just simply isn't there."
Director of Career Services Ross Meloan paints a dismal picture for graduating seniors, describing a job market he believes might not stabilize for another five years. Some markets, such as health care, accounting and business management, will always maintain a healthy demand. For others, such as manufacturing, Meloan says jobs are growing scarce and several industries might experience complete employment overhauls. In the case of General Motors, for example, economic troubles could affect as many as 1.5 million jobs. Although the outlook seems grim, Meloan says seniors shouldn't panic. The end of the year marks the deadline for retirement applicants who want to receive full pension plans, and that means more jobs for younger workers.
"We're finding a large number of our students are looking at a job market in which retirees are coming out of in droves. Yes, they are. They're retiring. The current Kentucky Education Retirement System's window closes December 31st of this year. Thousands of jobs will be vacant as a result of that window being closed."
Meloan also says college seniors still have hope, even though the national unemployment rate has risen to 6.5 percent. Those who carefully plan for their graduations and take advantage of internship opportunities may still be able to find positions in the ever-shrinking job market. He also suggests that students stay humble and start with entry level jobs.
"It's not that bad out there, but it's going to take my graduates more time, more effort and creativity to find the kinds of positions of employment that they're looking for. And, it may not be the perfect job right off the bat. As long as they're willing to do the things that are going to be necessary to put them into the kinds of jobs down the road that they're looking for - that dream job - if they can do that initially, I think we'll be ok."
Meloan's words might be full of warning, but senior Travis Felker isn't worried. Felker plans to find a teaching job after receiving his diploma next December, and even though he knows the country is experiencing a slump, he says he's prepared. He has already started scouting jobs a year in advance.
"With the opportunities offered to me here at Murray State, I've actually been able to make quite a few connections in local high schools, so the job opportunity for me is looking positive, mainly, because I've started early looking for job opportunities. That's where I think the difference is. I believe we're going to have to work a little bit harder and a lot more earlier than we thought we would have. Our job search may not begin just with our senior year or the graduation day. It may begin all the way back into our sophomore year."
Cherie Timberlake has seen all this before. Timberlake plans to graduate Murray State this May, and like Felker, she hopes to find a teaching position. This, however, will be her third degree. In 1999, she received bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism, but couldn't find a job in the field she spent four years studying. Left with no other option, she enrolled in graduate school, but that failed to improve her opportunities.
"Economy was different then than it is now, but some of those same fears were there as far as being able to get a job."
Now a single mother with two children, she hopes to carve out a new career path as a high school history teacher in a job market she believes is much more stable. While her future is brightening, she says she might have to watch her friends deal with the frustration she experienced ten years ago.
"If there's not a high demand, the economy's down and jobs have been cut in different areas, that fear is there that they're not going to receive a job, and I've actually talked to several already - friends of mine who are graduating in May - and they're already applying for grad school because they're afraid they're not going to be able to get a job."
According to Ross Meloan, instead of applying for graduate school, those who can't find positions in their chosen field may start taking the jobs people in this county have snubbed for decades, signaling a change in the American attitude.
"I think those jobs will now be taken by Americans. Those jobs are not beneath us. We will reload in our mental capacity with regards toward those positions of employment, and we will do them. I think this is an incredible wakeup call to the United States."
No matter a student's outlook, unemployment has still fallen across the country and Meloan says he believes the makeup of the American workforce will soon change drastically. This doesn't mean college students should give up their dreams, but it does mean they might have to spend more time finding internships and less time playing flag football.