Graduates find jobs despite economy

Although the recession is technically over, most new college graduates still face difficulty in finding a job.

Recent reports from the Bureau of Labor indicate that roughly one in two recent college graduates is either jobless or underemployed. Student debt is rising across the country, and the average debt for a student at John Brown University is now $20,000.

While these figures are accurate, another more hopeful figure has also emerged. Of the John Brown University 2011 graduating class, 99 percent are employed or in graduate school.

This data comes from an annual report distributed by Career Development. Roughly 207 graduates responded to the survey.

Chris Confer, director of Career Development, said he distributes an initial survey at graduation, asking if they already have jobs lined up. Of the December 2010 graduates, who are included in the May 2011 class, 52 percent had a job waiting for them. Of May graduates, 44 percent had a job lined up.

For the December graduates, Confer said 74 percent had jobs three months after graduation.

That is a good percentage, Confer said. Before the recession the numbers were about the same. In the year following the recession, the percentage of those with jobs on graduation day dropped to the mid 30s.

“We try to stay updated with our graduates,” Confer said. “If it doesn’t appear like students have gotten a job by August after their graduation, then we come by their side and help them.”

Career Development workers use methods such as Facebook, emails, phone calls and LinkedIn to check for any evidence of a job and, if none is found, contact the students to offer their help.

“We can help with a little bit of everything,” Confer said. “If a student has sent out 100 applications and hasn’t gotten a single bite, we know he needs help with his resume. So we will work with him on that. We also help with networking.”

Career Development’s website has a links to job boards, advice for handling job offers, interview tips and more.

The University job resume and portfolio listing receives 60 to 900 job listing every month, Confer said, but few students know about the website and do not take advantage of that opportunity.

Junior Caylie Foley said she is not anxious about graduation or finding a job afterward.

“I’m trusting God will show me what he wants,” she said.

Foley plans to pursue graphic design and would like to stay in the Siloam Springs area when she graduates.

Senior Dylan Smith is sending applications to medical schools right now.

“I am somewhat concerned about the recession, but I am planning on medical school and becoming a doctor,” said Smith. “I’m going to be in school for several more years before trying to find a job, and the world will always need doctors.”

Smith said he is optimistically hoping the economy will get better by the time he is done with medical school and residency, which is seven years.

“My main concern is hiring freezes at hospitals when I’m looking for a job,” he said.

Smith expressed some concern about taking out loans in the current economy.

“With so much school, I expect to deal with loans,” he said. “I hope summer employment, fellowships and careful living will keep it in balance, though.”

The job market right now is daunting, Confer agreed. But he also urged students to look at unemployment numbers cautiously. Those represent the nation, not the University’s graduates.

Students here have a liberal arts background and can pass a drug test, Confer said, which puts them ahead of others.

“Nine times out of ten, I’m sure an employer would choose a JBU student over a University of Arkansas student,” Confer said. “Hands down, employers look at us over state schools. We really do turn out students that are a cut above.”

Another reason to look at the statistics with caution is the region of the country a student lives in.

“The unemployment rates of Detroit and Siloam Springs are going to be very different,” Confer said.

However, Confer did encourage students to look along the Highway 540 corridor for employment rather than Siloam Springs if they want to stay in the area.

A third reason to consider the national statistics carefully is the University’s dedication to preparing their students for the future—graduate school or career hunting.

“Not many schools try to prepare their students like we do,” Confer said. “Of course, we struggle with apathetic students who don’t care about looking for a job, just like any school, but I think JBU students tend to be more proactive about living their lives and findings jobs than your average state school students would.”

The students who most quickly found jobs and have the highest paying jobs on the report are from the construction management, engineering, and business departments on campus. Most of the students who report lower incomes are former art majors who freelance, those working for a not-for-profit organization, students who found jobs with housing benefits and students who are taking a gap year before attending graduate school.

“We want to help students,” Confer said. “Respond to us when we contact you. We aren’t asking for money and we don’t expect you to do stuff. We won’t give away your information. We are really just trying to help you.”