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They’ve Crossed The Stage; Now What?

Black Voice News.com, News Report, Chris Levister Posted: Jun 29, 2009

College graduation should be met with feelings of relief, joy, excitement, and accomplishment. For the Class of 2009, however, this right of passage into the real world will bring about more than the typical nervous butterflies.

Like it or not, 2008 involved everyone in the economic crisis. Two graphic design internships and seven interviews later, Liz Daniels doesn’t have a job. She end. “You work your butt off for four years only to have the door slammed in your face at graduation. It’s very frustrating,” said Daniels.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that as many 1.4 million college graduates are about to enter a severely contracted job market that seems to be getting worse.

For many, the anxiety of figuring out life after graduation, in some ways, trumps the joys of finishing the four year college grind. The worries are worse for Black graduates, who historically are among the first fired and the last hired, according to statistics. Depressing job prospects are leading many African-American grads in search of alternatives to the traditional 9-to-5. Some graduates have settled on jobs outside their desired fields, while others like psychology major Bristol Wallace decided to attend graduate school and delay entering the work world.

“My dream job would be doing community outreach for poor families in a non-profit or the court system, but there are few opportunities. I’ve been working in an unpaid internship at a women’s shelter for three months but I need a job. I have student loans and other bills to pay. Graduate school is expensive but I have no choice but to move back home and enroll in graduate school,” said Wallace.

I graduated with a BS in mechanical engineering this weekend and am having trouble finding any form of work.

Every place I turn, the employers seek years of experience. I have tried most sites on the Net, gone to company web pages, and to agencies for help — but no luck. I am trying everything I can; I even can’t get work at low-level places (grocery stores, fast food) because I am now too educated,” said Paul Rainey. “I’m very concerned about the job market,” said Rocky Ellis, 21, a visual communications major at UC Riverside. “My biggest frustration has been that I receive positive feedback from companies, but they say they are waiting to hear back from a client. They are hesitant about the economy, and they don’t want to hire anyone they can’t pay.”

The Riverside native says that it’s gotten to the point where he has expanded his search to look for fellowships and programs that allow him to go back to school and get more training. He’s also considering teaching in Japan or joining some sort of volunteer organization.

The employment picture for Black college students has changed significantly over the past two years. In March 2007, the unemployment rate for African-Americans with four-year degrees was a modest 2.7 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Since that time unemployment among college-educated Blacks skyrocketed almost threefold to 7.2 percent, which is significantly higher than all other racial groups. At 3.8 percent, the jobless rate for Whites with college degrees is half the rate of their Black counterparts.

More than two-thirds of graduating college students in the United States expressed concern about the economic downtown hurting job prospects in a recent survey by HAccenture, a management consultant.

Other graduates like bio-chemistry major Redmond Fauset are still searching for a post-graduation solution.

Since starting his job search in mid 2008, the 23-year-old Cal State Long Beach alum has applied to more than 58 advertising and marketing jobs. “You’re competing against experience,” Fauset said referring to the glut of more experienced laid-off workers applying for the same entry-level positions as he is.

Fauset spends four hours or more a day searching for jobs, going to interviews and modifying his resume. He even shaved the dreadlocks he’s been growing for years in an effort, in part, to appear as what some perceive of as more professional.

While the mangled state of today’s economy isn’t giving this year’s class of graduating college students much optimism, graduates like Lasaya Walker say now is the time to take control of the future. Walker earned a psychology degree. Last month while modifying her resume, she saw a silver lining in the economic downturn. “Share the pain! Become a job coach. I plan to create resumes for other people in the same boat. I can use my psych skills by helping people find the job they love as oppose to the employment they need. Direct involvement in the job market keeps me abreast of who is hiring all the while I’m earning money for graduate school.”

Employment experts say in addition to sending out resumes, graduating seniors should expand their networking to professors, contacts met through volunteering and even parents of friends.

“Learn from other college job-seeker’s mistakes. Employers are now demanding that all college graduates have relevant experience. You MUST find the time in those four (or so) years of college to work part-time, do one or more internships, and/or participate in volunteering. Even those “entrylevel” positions usually require work experience, and there is simply no excuse for not gaining meaningful experience during those four years of college,” explains Redlands job consultant Keith Guest.

Still, some predictions for the recession appear bright for college grads, even ones who aren’t future computer programmers, engineers, pharmacists, nurses and accountants. Faced with baby boomers retiring, companies plan to hire 8 percent more 2009 college graduates than 2008 grads a year ago, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Young workers also are attractive because they are technology-savvy and willing to work for less.

“Right now I want to enjoy the moment,” says Walker hoisting her mortarboard. “It is a little comforting knowing that the graduate who followed me across the stage is probably in the same boat.”

Related Articles:

Achieving the Impossible

Every Student Deserves to Go to College: An Argument Against SB 381

School Matters: Putting an Accent on Latino Students’ Needs

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