Grim jobs outlook for new college grads


Justin Loutsch considers himself lucky, he's a found a job.

Loutsch, 23, just graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in global studies. Later this summer he'll head to South Korea where he has a job teaching English to elementary and high school students.

Justin Loutsch
Justin Loutsch is a new graduate of the University of Minnesota. He's already found a job teaching English to students in South Korea.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

He knows the fellow graduates he leaves behind will have a tough time finding a job of their own.

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"With the way the economy is, it's really tough to get a job," Loutsch said. "My friends still don't have anything and they're trying whatever they can, but some of them don't have plans yet."

That's the case for many college graduates across the country.

According to a May 2009 student survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 80.3 percent of graduates who've applied for jobs, don't have one. In 2008 that number was 74 percent. In 2007 it was only 49 percent.

Kirsten Lesak-Greenberg hoped to have a job in marketing or public relations by the time she graduated from the University of Minnesota.

She networked for months. She took internships to earn the experience she needed to beef up her resume.

And now Lesak-Greenberg's first big job after graduation will be another internship.

Kirsten Lesak-Greenberg
Like many of her friends who are graduating during a recession, U of M student Kirsten Lesak-Greenberg has yet to find a job. She feels fortunate to have a paid internship lined up after college.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

"But at the same time I do feel very lucky because the internship I'll be working with is a step forward," she said.

Lauren Weber, 22, a new University of St. Thomas grad, found out just how competitive the market can get for internships. She recently applied for an internship at a Twin Cities advertising agency. She was not alone.

"I was one of 600-plus that applied for two positions," Weber said. "Of that they interviewed 50, and of that they only took two."

Weber wasn't one of the two hired.

She doubts she'll find a job in her field anytime soon. She's got a back up plan, though. Weber runs her own photography business. She says snapping images of brides and grooms will keep her busy through the summer. In fact Weber is considering turning her part-time business into a full-time career.

For some graduates the frustration comes not because of a lack of jobs, but the competition for those jobs.

Katie Swanson, 22, who just graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield with a degree in nursing says new nursing grads are forced to compete with veteran nurses for entry level jobs.

"There are a lot of jobs for people with experience," Swanson said. "But in terms of those of us who have very little experience, it's been a struggle."

Lauren Weber
Lauren Weber just graduated from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. She's found the competition for jobs and paid internships among new graduates is fierce.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

Swanson has applied for nursing positions across the country. So far her search hasn't resulted in a job.

But she has found a positive side to the tough job market.

"Instead of having our futures completely laid out for us, now we have a little more leeway, perhaps options, will be opened that we could have never foreseen," she said.

College career experts maintain that type of optimism and flexibility is important for new college grads as they enter the workforce, or at least try to enter the workforce.