SEMO graduates facing mixed outlook for jobs

Thursday, May 3, 2012

National studies released so far this spring show mixed prospects for new graduates seeking jobs as Southeast Missouri State University prepares to release diplomas to the largest-ever number of students in the college's history.

A recent analysis of government data conducted for the Associated Press showed that while opportunities for college graduates vary widely, job prospects for bachelor's degree recipients fell to the lowest level in a decade last year.

Career Linkages staff at Southeast say the university's 1,300 graduates won't have an easier time than any other students in finding jobs after graduation but that there are some advantages and opportunities they hope their students will realize before they walk across the stage for their diploma.

"These days, and in the past even, you need to go where the jobs are," said Warren Skinner, assistant director of Career Linkages.

Career Linkages is a four-step process that helps students find a major appropriate for their interests, teaches them about occupations related to their major and provides guidance in crafting resumes and cover letters as well as connecting them with job opportunities. Career Linkages also offers job search help and advice to alumni.

Many students from St. Louis have banked on returning to that area to become employed full time in their field, Skinner said, but those students should try to change their mindset.

"It's a normal thing to want to go home and find a job," he said, "but students also have to understand there's more to getting the job than getting the diploma."

Not much has changed for university advisers in recent years when it comes to leading students toward landing a job, Skinner said, because students are always encouraged to "get out of their comfort zone" while searching. But they are told they should look a little farther away from home than they may have wanted to, he said.

Another thing students, and alumni for that matter, Skinner said, need to do is take advantage of resources. He cited a recent Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce event called Partnership of Prospects.

The event connected students as well as some alumni with 17 local employers and participants were able to network, have their resume included in an electronic portfolio handed out to employers and participate in 25-minute interviews with several potential employers, said Joyce Hunter, experiential learning coordinator with Career Linkages.

Rachel Poythress, a soon-to-be general studies degree recipient, participated in the event.

She said the event helped her realize she needed to tailor her resume for individual employers.

Poythress said she plans to try to find a full-time job immediately following graduation but that the job needs to meet certain requirements. Her job has to pay at least $11 per hour and provide health benefits. She said she doesn't believe that will limit her prospects much. She's already started looking for a job.

"I'm keeping my head up about it," she said.

An advantage Southeast students have, according to Skinner, is that the university's science, education and nursing programs are strong. Those fields were identified in the information compiled for the Associated Press as experiencing strong demand for college graduates.

"Those are three areas that Southeast really excels at, so our students have a leg up when it comes to those things," he said.

Hunter and Skinner said despite the results of recent studies, they believe opportunities are there.

"What people don't typically get right away is that you have to really keep your eyes open for those," Hunter said. "You have to be open to the process to make it work."

An annual survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers on the job prospects for 2012 graduates showed employers reported an intent to hire 10 percent more graduates than last year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

eragan@semissourian.com

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