One didn’t need to look any further than an architecture career fair last week at Kansas University to see how some students are facing this economy.
Students crammed into the ballroom on the fifth floor of the Kansas Union, lining up to talk to potential employers, résumés in hand.
The news they got wasn’t always pretty.
Josh Chesney was representing the Oklahoma-based architecture firm Cyntergy AEC at the career fair. It’s not like it was when the firm was at KU last year, he said, when about anyone who had good qualifications would be seriously considered for a job.
“Now we’re just trying to get our name out there with students,” he said.
That’s not to say there are no opportunities, he said, as the firm would not pass on the perfect candidate.
“We’re really going to be specific now,” he said.
It was a common refrain among other businesses at the event, too, and students were feeling it.
“It is a little bit unnerving,” said Mariana Moreira, a senior from Recife, Brazil, who was looking to just get her foot in the door at a firm. “It’s hard to be so ready and excited.”
Advice for students
David Gaston, the director of the University Career Center, said his office is seeing students who are anxious about their job possibilities.
Traffic at the career center is up 30 percent over last year’s numbers, and the office is seeing a significant increase in attendance at its career fairs, as well, Gaston said.
“In the past, students have not been as concerned with these types of thoughts,” he said. “We’re finding that students are much more apprehensive.”
His office is distributing tips on how to help students make themselves more marketable in a down economy.
He encourages all students to start early, and encourages younger students to go to career fair-type events, too.
“If you start early, maybe some representative will come back next time,” he said, and recognize you again.
And Gaston said those connections are critical to anyone searching for a job.
“Networking is huge,” Gaston said, and even more so in a down market. “Eighty percent of the jobs available are in a hidden job market,” meaning they aren’t advertised anywhere.
Both students and advisers said job seekers should be prepared to be more flexible in their job choices — the perfect job that fits a desired career path, in the location where students want to be and at the pay level desired, may not be there, Gaston said.
Students should not get discouraged, he said. Though unemployment numbers are reaching the 7 percent to 8 percent range, the number of unemployed people with college degrees is around 3 percent, he said.
Even for those seeking internships, it’s been difficult.
Grace Lennon, a junior from Branson, Mo., at the architecture career fair, had an internship in Los Angeles during her sophomore year, and was having a difficult time finding another one after the firm told her they probably wouldn’t be able to bring her back.
“I try to act comfortable and smile,” she said. “And I have my portfolio and résumé ready to go.”
In addition to having a more difficult time finding a job, students are also facing the reality that their parents may not be able to help as much as they had in the past.
Andrew Lewis, a junior from Wichita, said he’s had to turn more to student loans as his college career has moved on.
“I’m definitely relying on myself more, which is good,” Lewis said. “My dad has definitely said on the phone, ‘Times are getting tight; no more speeding tickets.’”
But all that anxiety isn’t always a bad thing, Gaston said.
“I think if directed in the right way, it’s going to be useful for folks,” he said. “Just don’t let anxiety make it so you can’t function.”