Grads have hard time finding jobs that pay

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College graduates and seniors are finding other alternatives to entering the job market since employers have cut back on college recruitment. Lower salary offers, lack of benefits and fewer openings are causing students to be less than eager about entering the work force.

Christopher Jones, vice-president of content and communities at Hot Jobs, forecasts that the job market will improve.

“One of things I tell people when they become scared about the job market is that baby boomers will retire and we’ll be looking at job shortages,” Jones said. “We’ll come from an employers’ market to a job seekers’ market. While it is slow right now, it won’t last for a very long time.”

However, Marilyn Mackes, National Association of Colleges and Employers [NACE] executive director said that the class of 2003 should expect to face even stiffer competition in the workplace than last year’s graduates.

The number of self-employed 20 to 24-year-olds rose from 235,000 in 1999 to 264,000 in 2001, said Stella Cromartie, economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, college recruitment dropped 36 percent from last year, according to NACE.

Previous graduates agree, saying they are in it for the long haul.

Lee Williams, 23, a 2001 UM graduate in systems analysis, remembered how even during his senior year technical majors had trouble finding employment.

“One of my professors in my management classes asked all 40 of us, ‘Who has a job set up after graduation?’ and out of those 40, only 10 raised their hands,” he said.

Those escaping the downtrodden path have sought summer internships or graduate school or have even become entrepreneurs.

“A no-brainer is finding internships,” Williams said. “Just get work experience because [students] who took internships and gained work experience can get more attention than someone who graduated with a 3.8 GPA with no work experience. A company can look at them and see how they can take those skills to apply to their company.”

After graduation, Williams took the only offer made to him: a Disney internship where he became a custodian at Disney World.

But during his stay, the FAA emailed Williams for a resume after a friend referred to Williams as a potential hire. Several emails, a telephone interview, a plane visit and background check later, Williams accepted a one-year $40,000 salaried contract with the FAA and now works under the Transportation Security Administration. Though his job does not offer benefits, Williams believes that he is “helping his country.”

“I’m satisfied and I have the unlimited potential to gain skills, [but] this is the government,” he said. “It’s not known for its pay. But comparing some pay for stability, that’s more valuable than a few thousand dollars for which I’d gladly exchange it.”

MaryAnn Guerra, 22, senior, began plans to open a jewelry and home decor business with her friend Heather Korn, a previous graduate.

An advertising and graphic design major, Guerra is anxious about her future but is confident about her prospects. She and her partner have established a web site (

“What I’m happy the most about is that I’m doing what I love to do,” she said about her preparations. “For me, the satisfaction is having done this with my partner and being able to do it myself, calling the shots my way.”

The depressed economy has prompted companies to offer smaller starting salaries than what graduates were expecting. For the first time, computer science majors received offers below $50,000, NACE reported in its summer salary survey.

Logistics/materials management graduates had salaries decrease 9.1 percent to $39,407. Offers to business administration graduates fell 5.6 percent to $36,429 and liberal arts majors saw their salaries fall below $30,000.

The best sectors were accounting, federal government, and healthcare. Nursing graduates averaged $38,459 while accounting majors earned $39,768.

Accounting firms expect to hire 30 percent more new college graduates this year than last year.

The federal government is increasing its college hiring and raised its starting salaries 15.4 percent from $35,188 to $40,598.

For students majoring in other areas, the best alternative seems to be to stay in school.

The Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT, the equivalent to the SAT for business schools, saw an increase of tests taken, said Susan Swayze, director of research studies.

In the first six months of 2002, 82,855 GMATs were taken, up from 70,952 during the same six month period in 2001.

Schools like FIU, University of South Florida and Florida A&M University have also seen an increase of applications to their business graduate programs.

Nadesha Ranasinghe, 22, was a dot-com casualty when his former employer,, relocated to Panama for cheaper labor.

“They pay next to nothing over there for technical help,” he said. “There’s a guy who gets paid $1,300 full time for programming work and that’s pretty bad – that’s maybe $15,000 a year to our standards.”

Ranasinghe, a UM computer science graduate, has now enrolled at UM’s Business School in hopes that an MBA will give him the skills to eventually run his own software company before he turns 30.

Allison Chang, 22, a 2002 graduate, worked in Miami at the accounting firm KPMG as an auditing intern.

Her previous internship with them led to a job offer. She told them she wanted to earn an MBA before starting.

“I got my job offer [from KPMG] when I was a junior, so I know I have a job [there],” she said. “It takes a lot of stress off of me. I know I had this to go back on if I didn’t find anything else. But I just wanted to get my masters over with. I don’t want to end up going to school and working at the same time because it would take five years.”

She offers job interview tips to upcoming graduates:

“Personality was most important,” she said. “They are not necessarily looking for experience in accounting, because they train you. They don’t expect people to come out of school knowing what to do. At the interview, they’re looking at your personality to see if you’re outgoing. For my profession, you’ve got to be able to talk to anybody, communicate clearly and be a quick learner.”