College students having trouble finding summer jobs

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Internships and summer work can provide a way for students to land jobs after they graduate from college. But, continuing a trend, many students this year have found internships and other summer employment hard to find, especially in their fields.

"Summer employment is limited, particularly with jobs available that are congruent with their majors," said Jerry Westbrook, director of Career Services at Southeast Missouri State University. "This year is slightly better. The last two years were the most depressed job market for college students I have seen."

While not many summer jobs are available, signs of change do exist, said Dr. Bruce Domazlicky, director of the Center for Economic and Business Research at the university.

"The job market is down," he said. "The economy is picking up, and that should help some."

Southeast students who are waiting for the job market to pick up are spending their summer in a variety of ways.

Eric Barnes is taking classes to fill some of his free time.

"I'm not trying to do too much this summer," he said. "But I am doing some odd jobs for people I know in order to earn some cash."

Angie Morris is still hoping to get some work.

"I'm still looking for something, but in case I don't find something, I am taking a class at the university," Morris said.

Not all job-hunting students are taking the studious approach.

"For now, it's fun because I can do what I want," Scott Cooper said.

Even with a slow market for summer employment, some students have found work through word of mouth.

"A friend who works at the university bookstore told me of an opening, so I took it," Jill Hodge said, adding that she did not look into getting an internship for the summer.

Searches and networks

In addition to using job postings offered by Career Services, Westfield Shoppingtown West Park senior marketing director Joyce Hunter said, students should look at the mall's Employment Opportunity Handbook.

"All the stores are able to bring job openings to us," Hunter said. "And people can come to our office and have everything in one location."

Searching job postings is a good start for students looking for employment, said Steve Sattler, development supervisor for the Cape Girardeau office of the Missouri Career Center, the state employment service.

"I would advise them to network as much as they can," Sattler said. "Don't limit themselves by looking at newspaper ads. Search the state job bank and contact people in human resources at companies."

Though many businesses are not hiring, Sattler said, manufacturing and health care are two industries that are.

Domazlicky said students looking for jobs should look at industries that need seasonal help.

"Construction usually needs help in the summers, and the restaurants in town are always looking for help. But sales positions are down, especially for those individuals without experience," Domazlicky said.

A representative for Famous Barr said the store is not hiring any summer help because college students who work part time at the store during the school year want to increase their hours over the summer.

Sara Davie is working this summer in textbook rental at the university, a job she has had for two years.

"It was the first job I found when I started college," Davie said. "But I have thought about trying to get a job more closely related to education, because I hope to be a teacher."

Intern insight

Westbrook recommends that students look for internships after their sophomore year as a way to get another internship or job the next summer. These internships are learning opportunities for both companies and students, he said.

"It give employers a chance to look at the work experience of students and as a result better pick those that mesh with their company," Westbrook said. He noted that employers look at how students handle the work environment and the type of critical thinking and problem-solving skills the students possess.

Students also can gain insight from their internships, but the main benefit of an internship is the increased likelihood of obtaining a job.

"The experience will help make them more marketable when graduating, and now at least 70 percent of businesses require internships when hiring," Westbrook said.

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