D’ohh!!!: Outlook bleak for graduating job-seekers

(U-WIRE) In a plummeting housing market that sent stocks tumbling as far as Bombay and London, the slowing domestic economy paints an uncertain future for job seekers and new college graduates.

The situation raises concern for this year’s graduating seniors, who may face a particularly tight job market as employers trim payrolls in anticipation of the economic downturn.

Dr. Leah Boustan, a University of California at Los Angeles assistant professor of economics and specialist in labor markets, said starting a career in bad economic times can have long-term effects.

“If your first job is not up to top standards, you might not learn as much,” she said. “(Research shows) that the effects of getting advanced degrees in a bad economic climate can be apparent even 10 years later.”

The current unemployment rate stands at 4.9 percent, low by historic standards but not necessarily indicative of the current job market.

Boustan said she recommends pursuing a more advanced degree as an alternative to working straight after graduation.

“Consider going back to school, if the job market is not ideal,” Boustan said. “In terms of applications for our program, the anecdotal evidence is that the applicant pool increases in times of economic downturn. It’s best to keep your options open; take a GRE or a GMAT because scores are good for five years.”

Torn between graduate school and seeking work, fourth-year sociology student Dianne Tanjuaquio is at precisely this crossroads. She said the codependence between work and school can be a catch-22 for newly minted graduates.

“For a lot of graduate schools, you need work experience to qualify or be competitive,” said Tanjuaquio, who is undergraduate student government internal vice president. “I want to get out of the college lifestyle. But getting out of Westwood, making that move to the real world, takes money.”

President Bush proposed a stimulus package in January that would send rebates to taxpayers, a move aimed to jump-start consumer spending. Though a Senate amendment expanded the rebate to non-taxpayers earning more than $3,000, the full extent of this benefit to job seekers is unclear.

Boustan said she advises students to pay attention to the skill set required for the work, especially in the face of globalization and outsourcing.

“Even basic white-collar activities can be transported overseas,” she said. “The mark of what makes a job that’s unique to U.S. is working in teams and working creatively. (Fields like) filmmaking, entrepreneurship and developing new software are often done locally.”

But a successful career does not necessarily require a conventional approach, as fourth-year biology student Emily Chien shows. A business technology analyst who works to optimize business information systems, Chien applies interdisciplinary skills for her current job, demonstrating the usefulness of a biology degree for a completely different line of work.

“Consulting is a position of problem-solving,” Chien said. “And there’s a lot of that in biology.”

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