What’s a job search like for recent college grads? A Q&A from the front lines
By Paula Wethington / Monroe on a Budget
My daughter, Karolyn Wojtowicz, is among the generation whose launch into adult life was delayed by the recession.
Her senior year at Monroe High, the time for college and career decisions, was in 2006-07. When the financial crisis peaked in 2008, she was already working on her university degree. Her best option was to stay focused on her classes, and hope the economy turned around before she hit the job market.
That didn’t happen. As she prepared to graduate in 2011, we heard stories about classmates going to graduate school to wait out the recession or failing to find jobs at all. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report on the spring college class of 2011 indicated 25 percent of those students were still unemployed in October 2011.
My daughter found a graduate assistantship where the perks included free tuition. That offer, along with related part-time work, gave her additional credentials and she completed her master’s degree in May.
But even with an expanded resume, she had no job. She moved back home with my husband and I. We thought her “living with the parents” situation would last just a few weeks. Instead, it lasted all summer. It was September before she landed a full-time position in her field.
Here’s a Q&A on what it took for my daughter to get a paycheck and her own apartment again.
What did you originally plan on doing after your bachelor’s degree?
I wanted a job in international something – and the possibilities ranged from non-profit and politics to colleges. Unfortunately, all that seemed available at the time were part-time positions in retail, which was something I was definitely not interested in.
When did you start your “after grad school” job search, and how many jobs did you apply to?
I started looking over Christmas break. The first job I applied for, out of 131 applications, was done on Feb. 21. The job I accepted Sept. 2 was application number 110 and I applied for it Aug. 8. Most places do not contact you back if you are not selected, so after some time passes, you have to move on to the next job possibility.
I had 17 first round interviews for positions and I did 9 second-round interviews, most of which were in person and paid for by the place interviewing me. However, there were some places I had to pay for the travel expenses for an in-person interview – which I was able to keep low through staying with friends or family. If it would cost me a lot out of pocket to go to an interview, it gave me time to pause and reflect “is this opportunity really a good fit for me?”
What was your routine for staying on task with the job search?
I learned that it was hard for me to focus on jobs after my parents came home from work. In the mornings, I searched for new positions while eating breakfast. After lunch, I would switch modes and go from searching to applying.
How did you keep track of which jobs you were applying to?
I created a spreadsheet with the following columns: job title; where (company or college name); how I found it; who I listed as references; what date I applied; and a space for notes such as “phone interview 7/8; in-person 7/23”.
All positions that I had not yet applied for stayed on my desktop. Once I started working on an application, each location got its own folder in a larger “post-graduate” folder. Inside each position folder, there was a copy of the resume, cover letter, references and job description.
What did you do in the meantime to earn money?
During the summer, I was able to take babysitting jobs with family and friends, but I had problems regarding scheduling interviews around those duties. One of my friends who went through a job search six months earlier also had advised me to keep some cash in reserve for moving expenses.
I was lucky that I could live somewhere cost-free while on the job search. If the job search went much longer, I was going to have to re-evaluate my goals so I could contribute toward expenses at home and start paying on the student loans. I know that I am lucky to have a position in a field that I wanted – as many of my friends, even those with master’s degrees, have had to settle for a “job” versus a “career.”
Karolyn Wojtowicz is now the Off Campus Coordinator for study abroad programs at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.
This article also ran as a special Monroe on a Budget column in the Oct. 9 edition of The Monroe News: