Fair trade: UM students look for jobs in tough market at career fair
Despite dire economic straits and a job market with more layoffs than openings, many University of Massachusetts students made the rounds at several career fairs held on campus this week.
Many UMass students who attended the ALANA career fair, the Campus-Wide fair or the Summer, Internship and Co-op fair felt extra pressure to take advantage of the opportunity this year, due to the current tough job market and the overall feeling that a bachelor’s degree may no longer hold as much weight as it once did.
Many of the students perusing the vendors, dressed up in suits with resumes in hand, said their main motivation for attending this year’s fairs was because of the weakened economy and raised competition in the job market.
“Because of the economy, it’s hard to find jobs through job searches. This is a good opportunity to meet people who are actually hiring,” said Brittany Page, a senior architecture major at UMass.
Chris Lamborghini, a senior, marketing major said, “I felt that I had to get out here because these companies are looking to hire. It’s easier when they’re looking for you.”
Students and vendors at all fairs noticed that many students in attendance were planning to seek a master’s degree rather then enter the job market immediately after college.
“With the economy down, you need more than a college degree. That used to be special, but it’s getting more competitive,” said Kevin Morrison, a sophomore at UMass.
Lamborghini, who attended the Campus-Wide career fair, said many students he talked to were pursuing graduate school and that if he doesn’t find a job by fall, he will feel likely do the same.
“If there are no jobs in your field, you go on to the next level,” he said.
Many students who attended the Summer, Co-op and Internship fair said they too felt pressured by the economic times to seek internships because such experience adds value to the seemingly dwindling value of a college degree.
Many of the recruiters agreed and said companies are much more likely to hire students who have completed internships than those who haven’t.
“I know that in order to get a job, I need an internship,” said Hannah Moriarty, a sophomore, communications and English major.
But, to Moriarty’s dismay, many companies are less likely to offer paid internships like they used to.
Moriarty has opted to join the Peace Corps for two years after college and then pursue a master’s because she feels the economy will be stronger then, the Peace Corps will give her $6,000 upon completion, and the experience will make her more marketable to companies.
“It’s more of a sure thing when you join because not a lot of people do it,” she said.
Vendors also noticed that the tough economy is making students more open-minded about career choices and more willing to explore job opportunities outside their field because of the difficulty of obtaining a job.
“With the economy being the way it is, there is a wider range of candidates to choose from,” said Charles Branche, a financial analyst at Financial Partners.
Colleen Rondeau, a store manager at Kohl’s, said she has seen more students considering retail because they can’t find jobs within their majors and because the retail business doesn’t require experience.
Students and vendors also noticed a decrease in the number of companies which attended this year’s career fairs compared to past fairs.
“There are fewer companies here now, which might be a sign of economic times,” said Joe Margaitis, an area rental manager for Enterprise.
“Of course there are not as many (recruiters) as when the economy is booming,” said Ginger Goldsbury, associate director of career services at UMass, who organized the campus-wide career fair.
“The only thing I can say is that I was really pleasantly surprised with how many vendors came,” she said.
On the master’s versus job search debate, Goldsbury felt students should pound the pavement for employment.
“If you have a master’s you have more education, but less experience and you’re more in debt,” she said. “The bottom line is to try really hard to find work.”
Anna Meiler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.