College grads struggle to find jobs in a tight economy but networking helps


EL PASO – As a recent college graduate and member of the millennial generation, as the news media calls us, I, like many others, have “struggled” and weathered various trials and tribulations to try to find a job in my field of communication and news media.

Before even graduating I was sending out resumes, scouring the Internet, asking anyone who I thought would lend a “helping hand” to help me find a job. I even volunteered for over two years for free with no fringe benefits. It was certainly tough for me to find anything permanent or even that paid.

I had followed what I believed was a tried-and-true approach to obtaining a professional career in the communications field. I studied hard for four years and graduated with honors with a double major and a minor at the University of Texas at El Paso and completed a post graduation internship at the Department of Athletics.

During this internship and while searching for a job everywhere that seemed promising, I ran into a former teacher at a basketball game and struck up a conversation. Straight up I asked if he knew anyone that was hiring and he said, “I am.”

How’s that for being proactive! Because of that conversation I am now working at the Department of Biology at UTEP where my duties include writing press releases and stories about the research and activities of biology faculty. I have come to understand that recent graduates have to “make things happen,” and constantly network to learn about work opportunities.

This frustrating experience has me wondering if colleges could be more helpful to graduating seniors by establishing better connections and relationships with local businesses and employers, thus building bridges for them to enter the professional workforce instead of having to settle for minimum wage McJobs after graduation.

In a perfect world, I would like to see universities focus more on creating opportunities for graduates in the public and private sectors. That would be so much more effective than just offering traditional job fairs and resume writing workshops, which can be boring and unhelpful.

Although these activities and services can be helpful, they do not equate to actually landing a job. I know. I have been to many career fairs at the Don Haskins and for me they produced nothing solid.

Wouldn’t it be great if career services departments actively lobbied local, regional and national companies, government agencies, and nonprofits to welcome student talent while offering training, mentoring, and one day a paycheck ensuring student success.

In a post-recession society there are many lost souls who had high hopes for their professional future but came up empty handed. Believe it or not there are many sub par jobs out there occupied by college graduates. Although the government claims the country is coming out of the recession, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of last October the unemployment rate for millennials under the age of 25 is 12.5 percent, higher than the overall unemployment rate of 6.7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In a press briefing the Federal Reserve Bank of New York noted that 44 percent of recent college graduates were underemployed as of 2012, meaning that they were working in jobs that did not require their degrees

And the news for recent grads gets worse. According to Forbes Magazine, for every job opening that is posted there are over 120 applicants. In addition, only about 20 percent of available jobs are posted. The rest are landed by word of mouth.

These numbers translate into situations where I often run into college peers working at bars, supermarkets, the local mall, or other minimum wage service job they can find.

I have spoken to some college classmates who are now asking: “Why did I bother going to college?” These unemployed and underemployed young men and women now lack a sense of purpose for their educational sacrifice, especially if they also have to pay back thousands in student loans.

Unable to find a good job in their field, some have had to move back home with Mom and Dad because they are financially anemic.

“I feel that I just cannot get ahead,” admitted a former school friend, Nina who works at a bar on Cincinnati Street. She works six nights a week and earns an average of $300 a week if business is good at the bar, but still does not earn enough to move out of her parent’s house. The 26-year-old graduated in 2010 with a degree in Organizational Communication.

“While in college I felt I had the skills to land a good job in Public Relations. But now I ask, “what can I get you to drink?” said Nina, who is currently contemplating switching jobs.

Another friend and recent college graduate is Alessandra. She graduated in 2011 with a finance degree and has found it very difficult to find anything that closely matches what she studied. Over the last few years she has worked many odd jobs, including at a gas station, and even as a waitress. Most recently she landed a job at a jewelry store at the new Fountains of Farah mall in El Paso.

“At least now I can dress up to go to work,” Alessandra jokes. “I have a son to support and I have to live at home. I work on commission too. It’s very hard to actually get a good paycheck to cover my monthly costs along with my (student) debt.”

As for me, I plan to continue working for the immediate future to making ends meet. I am also contemplating graduate school, and am still optimistic that someday I will land the job of my dreams.

Besides networking with anyone and everyone that you possibly can, here are some websites that might help you land a job.



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