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Students find toughest job market in years

By   /   Saturday, January 31st, 2009  /   Comments Off on Students find toughest job market in years

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California’s increasing unemployment rate is not the news business students want to hear as they get ready to graduate this spring. But the slowdown already is showing up in smaller job fairs and enhanced career planning services offered by schools.

Business schools at tri-county universities are using workshops and one-on-one counseling to teach upcoming graduates about how to tackle the job market head-on and calm fears about finding a position.

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, typically hosts about 180 employers at its job fairs, which occur every quarter. But just 130 employers signed up for the winter fair, which was held Jan. 28 and 29.

Amy Swanson, industry liaison and academic adviser for Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business, said she has spoken with employers that simply do not have the funds to recruit as heavily as in the past. She added that many of the job fair slots did not fill until a few weeks before the event.

Swanson said she’s also waiting to see whether companies will offer more unpaid internships in the coming year. “It’s hard to say if internships have been affected,” she said. “The true test will be when we get closer to the summer months.”

Jay Derrico, career development manager at California State University, Channel Islands, said his school hasn’t seen a significant decrease in jobs or internships offered to students. But that may change at its April job fair.

Derrico said about 85 companies participated in last year’s fair, which includes organizations from across the country. So far this year, 16 companies have signed on.

But students are being encouraged more than ever to prepare themselves for a gradually tougher time finding work.

Prior to the January job fair and continuing through the term, Swanson and a team of career counselors and advisers are preparing Cal Poly business students for job searches in an unstable field. The Orfalea school’s College Success Center is hosting workshops to polish student resumes and prepare them for the interview process, all of which are intended to better enable them to brave the tougher economic climate.

“Some students are a little nervous for their future,” Swanson said. “More are willing to take unpaid positions because they’re looking to get experience. They’re starting to look earlier and getting more prepared than before.”

Students must also prepare for deeper employment cuts in the first quarter, as well as a host of recently laid-off employees competing against graduates for work.

To set themselves apart, Swanson and other counselors are encouraging students to broaden their resumes with some of the school’s extracurricular activities and volunteer groups.

CSUCI also helps students launch their careers with workshops and one-on-one counseling, some of which Derrico conducts.

“Most of the time when we do this workshop, we show trends from 15 to 20 years,” Derrico said. “But we’re on the cusp of this new phase. We know there’s a downturn, but we can’t track it yet.”

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