Since graduating from Macon State College in May, Allison Boutwell sent out dozens of applications and résumés looking for work in her field of new media and communications.
My major was supposed to open a lot of doors, Boutwell said. It seems that either employers already have somebody in mind, theyre hiring internally or I dont have enough experience. Its really difficult because its not just college students looking for jobs, but adults who already have a lot of experience are looking for jobs.
A follow-up phone call to WRWR-TV in Warner Robins finally opened a door for Boutwell. The position -- one of 63 for which she had applied -- had been filled, but another in production was open. After completing a pair of test projects, she got the job last week.
It was exactly what I was looking for, Boutwell said. I was very blessed in that I got a job within three months of looking. Its really, really tough.
Boutwells job-hunting experience is not particularly unique, except she may have found a job quicker than some graduates.
Because of the layoffs (the past few years), new graduates are competing with people with experience and with the skills that are needed, said Barbara Warren, director of career services at Macon State. Some companies will hire an older employee at the same price ... and get a bonus with what they know.
As we celebrate Labor Day, which was created more than 100 years ago to honor American workers, colleges are sending graduates out into the world to find their places of employment.
While some college graduates are finding it difficult to nail down jobs -- either because they started looking too late, people with their degrees are not in high demand, or they are not willing to relocate -- they are in better shape than those who graduated a few years ago.
Job prospects are a little better now than during the past four years, according to several national reports.
Many of this years graduates are fortunate because they entered college just as the recession took hold across the country, so they were in the best place they could have been during a down economy.
Steve Brown, director of career services for Mercer University, said employment prospects are improving.
It has been a steady but small increase since about 2008, and really statistically, the unemployment rate for college graduates has been about four points below the national average, Brown said. Its been tough for college graduates, but I guess its not been as bad as people think.
There have been opportunities out there, but folks are having to think a little outside the box, he said. It may not be exactly the location you were thinking you might be working in, and it might not even be the ideal first job, but there are job opportunities for college graduates.
Georgias overall unemployment rate was 9.3 percent in July, 10.3 percent in Macons metropolitan statistical area, and 8.1 percent in Warner Robins.
A recent report from the National Association of Colleges & Employers seems to back up Browns optimism, stating it anticipates a 12-percent increase in jobs being offered to college graduates.
GC&SU Career day draws students, employers
Last week at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, about 400 soon-to-be graduates attended the senior picnic career day, hoping to get a jump on the still tough market.
Brent Burrows, a marketing major who will graduate in December, has worked some at the college and the family-owned air conditioning business back home in Buford. Hes optimistic that his work in college will pay off in finding a good job.
I hear mixed reviews based on what you see on the news. Burrows said. But from watching my friends who have graduated, if youre qualified, worked hard in college and youre a go-getter, you can get out there and find a job.
About 10 employers attended the career day event.
When Mary Roberts, director of the University Career Center at Georgia College began her job in 2007, the employer turnout was great.
There were always employers here hiring, she said. The next year, it was really hard ... weve had an uphill battle (finding employers looking to hire). Those 2008-2009 graduates I think probably had it the worst that Ive seen since Ive been in this field.
Roberts worked at Mercer from 2002 to 2007 in a similar position.
At the career day event, Jessica Stadel of Loganville and Caroline Faber of Peachtree City were encouraged by their visits to the booths of prospective employers, including Geico, located in Macon. Stadel is majoring in business management and Faber in economics with a minor in Spanish.
Weve heard that our majors are very employable, so thats good, Faber said. Were trying to get our names out there, make contacts, that sort of thing.
They said most of their friends who graduated last year have had success, depending on their choice of studies.
Everyone I know has done well, but they were all from the economics department, Faber said. I know people with other majors who dont have jobs. I have a cousin who majored in history, and he doesnt know what hes going to do.
Patrick Harrigan wore the hat of employer at this years career day. He graduated in December from Georgia College and was working the booth for Insight Global, a staffing service based in Atlanta with 30 offices nationwide.
Finding the job took him about four to five months.
I started my job search early, Harrigan said. I went to all these events. This opportunity came along, and it ended up working out.
I actually really enjoy it, he said. I know when I was here how tough it was when youre looking for a job. Its good to come back and help other people find jobs because it is a frustrating process.
Geoff Mills of Sherwin Williams told students the company is hiring management trainees nationwide, with a position open in south Georgia. The trainees work as assistant managers in stores and can move up to sales and management positions.
Were very proud of our promotion rate, Mills said. Its about 90 percent. All of our leaders started out as a management trainee. The outlook is getting brighter. Weve gotten through the rough part of the recession. By investing and hiring, were prepared for when things pick up. Weve all gotten better at what we do. We had to get sharper in order to compete.
Graduates need to be flexible during job hunt
Amanda Elliotts marketing major has led only to jobs in mostly cold-call sales and administrative clerical work, not the creative advertising position she envisioned when graduating from Macon State College in December.
Elliott has had some fun, though. She got to travel to trade shows, and she enjoys tending bar at Dolce Vita in downtown Macon, a job shes had since March. That hasnt stopped her from looking.
I dont mind networking. I do it here everyday, the 24-year-old said at the Cherry Street restaurant. Somehow I get around to the subject of talking business with local businessmen. Its a tough economy right now. They want people with experience. That way they dont have to put money into training.
Elliott got a promising lead recently when a friend mentioned a nursing home needing someone to market its services to hospitals.
That would definitely be something Id be interested in finding more about, she said.
Graduates of Central Georgia Technical College are unique in that they get hands-on training or are in co-op programs while attending school, said Tonya McClure, executive director of advancement and public relations.
So they are ready to start immediately, and already have training in particular areas, McClure said.
The Southern Co., Georgia Powers parent, recently hired nine CGTC students, she said.
Some of our highest programs as far as enrollment goes are practical nursing and medical assisting, McClure said. We have a strong partnership with the medical industry in our service delivery area, which includes seven counties.
Some of CGTCs students are displaced workers who have been laid off or lost their jobs when their company shut down.
They need to quickly get back in the workplace, she said We understand that and start training them as quickly as possible. We are seeing a lot of displaced workers. A lot of our students are not 18 and just out of high school.
I see a pretty good number of students who have a bachelors degree already, and they are having trouble finding a job.
Roberts, with Georgia College, said graduates need to be flexible when job hunting.
Its gotten much more competitive, Roberts said. If they are attached to a certain location and they cant move, those individuals will have a harder time.
At one time, some midstate graduates could always depend on finding a job at Robins Air Force Base, said Warren with Macon State College.
For years Robins Air Force Base and defense contractors have been the default: Ill go to work at the base, she said. Thats not the case any longer -- theyre not hiring as many. They are scaling back, which means students have to look for other alternatives. ... Jobs are out there, but they are not under every rock.
Also, a graduates first job may not be their forever job.
Go ahead and start someplace, Warren said.
Job hunters need to be especially careful with their résumés and cover letters, she said.
They need to tailor their résumés to fit each job, need to do really good research on the companies they want to work for, know their competitors, be willing to relocate, she said. Its like a parking lot. There are plenty of spaces, but they are not all at your front door.
To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623. To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.