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May 13, 2002

Students using some new strategies in tight job market

By Elaine Justice


Emory students graduating today are facing a job market much different from the one that existed when they entered college or graduate school. But across the University, students are facing the new realities with new tactics: More undergraduates are enrolling in graduate or professional degree programs than in years past, while others are developing new strategies for a tighter job market.

Tariq Shakoor, director of Emory’s Career Center, which advises undergraduates seeking jobs, said he is seeing many of the same trends colleagues around the country are experiencing. “This is one of the toughest job markets I have ever seen in my 14 years here at Emory,” he said.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers, based on a survey of companies, predicted a 20 percent drop in campus recruitment by companies—a prediction made before Sept. 11, which hit the market even more.

The number of companies recruiting undergraduates on campus at Emory fell by 25 percent during the fall semester. Spring statistics also are down, despite an aggressive initiative by the Career Center to entice companies to come to campus, according to Shakoor.

No hard numbers for this month are available yet, but Shakoor said the Career Center is advising fewer students than in recent years. “There is a large increase in the number of students who are applying to grad school instead of trying to enter the job market now,” he said.

Both the School of Law and the Goizueta Business School have seen this trend in action with an upsurge in applications for next fall. Applications are up 22 percent at the law school and 35 percent for the two-year MBA program at Goizueta.

Business majors are faring fairly well regarding the number and variety of jobs available, and the business school has instituted a number of strategies that are providing upsides for graduates in the midst of the downturn.

To help second-year MBAs repackage themselves for the new realities of the job market, Goizueta’s MBA Career Management Center has established “Focused Fridays,” at which the center’s staff and additional counselors advise students on professional contacts, job seeking strategies and refining their resumes.

The MBA program also plans to hire a corporate relationship manager to boost corporate outreach and networking, the latter of which is recognized by faculty and students alike as the single most important career search strategy.

Among other initiatives at the business school, Dean Tom Robertson holds biweekly brainstorming sessions with staff, focused on placement of undergraduate business majors and MBAs. Some Goizueta alumni have augmented the school’s efforts with initiatives of their own, such as a group called Career Catalyst, in which young alumni have banded together “to help us all network more effectively,” says Liz Caracciolo, a 2001 MBA graduate.

Goizueta students also have shifted their enrollment to courses in the fundamentals. “This year, it’s more about a well-rounded MBA,” said Kembrel Jones, assistant dean and director of the MBA Program.

For undergraduates, accounting courses are becoming more popular, since becoming a certified public accountant is “the only credentialed opportunity at the undergraduate level,” according to Andrea Hershatter, assistant dean and director of the BBA Program.

At the law school, the career services office has increased its counseling staff, beefed up on-campus interview programs and instructed students to widen their geographic job search, said Naomi McLaurin, associate dean for career placement. The law school’s alumni also are playing a key role in networking, she said, participating both in one-on-one mentoring and in a new pilot mentor program.

Among undergraduates, it’s not surprising that those struggling the most in landing a job are those who, while very bright, are unfocused in their career goals and indecisive about what they want to do, Shakoor said. A robust market is more forgiving to such graduates, and many easily found jobs in recent years, but in a tight economy it presents much more of a challenge, he said.

One area that has benefited from the tight market is the nonprofit sector. Applications are on the rise for programs such as the Peace Corps, and Teach for America had a big recruitment year on the Emory campus.

“Teach for America was extremely happy at the large number of high-caliber students they recruited,” Shakoor said. “A lot of students want to do something like this before making long-term decisions about their careers and
graduate schools.”