In shaky economic times, and with rising student debt, graduating college seniors are being advised to take any paycheck they can get while continuing to search for a job that will use the skills they cultivated in college. Thornel Ruff and his wife are following in the footsteps of their three children and graduating from college this spring. But this family tradition, albeit in reverse, comes with a cost and no guarantee of employment, as thousands of college students discover upon entering the work force.
“I’m excited about finding a job, but I’m kind of worried,” said Ruff, who earned a degree in sports industry operations at Metropolitan State College of Denver and estimates his family’s college debt will be about $40,000.
Ruff hopes he finds a job coaching football quickly but will probably accept less than his dream job to pay the bills.
“My time frame is immediately. I’m paying a mortgage,” Ruff said.
On average, Metro State students graduate with $13,364 in student debts – an increase of more than $2,000 from last year’s graduating class, according to the college.
Ruff has the right attitude because it takes most students four to six months to secure a job, said Bridgette Coble, interim director of Metro’s Office of Career Services.
“If they know they have bills to pay, go ahead and get something even if it’s not related to their major,” Coble said. “Go ahead and go for the survival job because that will help meet some of the immediate needs, and keep looking.”
That approach may not appeal to a recent graduate with big dreams, but Coble cautions grads to keep an eye on the competition.
“College graduates are still competing with more experienced job seekers who are also interested in the same jobs,” she said. “People are staying in the job force longer and retiring much later than in years prior. This makes for still more job seekers than there are opportunities, especially in the more competitive fields like accounting, information technology and journalism.”
But both Coble and Peter Caughey, a spokesman for the University of Colorado at Boulder, where 5,488 students will receive their degrees on May 9, say recent graduates have some advantages over more experienced job hunters, such as career fairs that take place on campuses throughout the spring and the support of career services offices even after graduation.
“The new graduate job market is a little bit different because it also includes the option of interviewing on campus or meeting organizations through career fairs,” Coble said. “The difference is that these types of recruiters are looking for multiple hires from each school they visit.”
With no magic job-landing formula, this spring’s graduates might want to take some advice from one of their own: “I’ve turned 50 so I’ve learned some lessons in life. I expect the worst and hope for the best,” Ruff said.