As college seniors look to enter the job market next year amid an unfolding economic crisis, they will need to exhibit great degrees of persistence and resilience in their job searches, according to the director of Washington and Lee University’s Career Services Office.
In her work with W&L’s seniors, Beverly Lorig says that she is definitely seeing anxiety, but not quite panic, as they look at their options in the marketplace.
“The persistence of these students will be tested in these circumstances,” said Lorig. “The process of finding a job is going to take longer than most of them expected or hoped it would take. How they handle it is going to be important. That’s where resilience becomes a factor.”
Some students held internships with financial firms last summer and returned to campus in the fall with job offers in hand. Now that some of those offers have disappeared along with investment banks, the students’ level of anxiety is clearly higher.
“For the seniors who thought they had their postgraduate plans locked up, this has been especially difficult as they regroup,” said Lorig. “As one student told me, his blinders are off, and he has to start looking anew at where his particular skills might be most applicable.”
Lorig said that each year, about 30 W&L seniors are likely to look at investment banking jobs in New York.
“We have had middle market groups come to campus to recruit, and they do have jobs to offer,” she said. “But these are generally places that might hire four or five students each year rather than 150.”
In her conversations with seniors about the current environment, Lorig is encouraged by their attitude and said that some have actually seen the situation as a call to broaden what had been a narrow focus. For instance, students who had been focused narrowly on a particular career path are now asking how they can use their skills in other ways.
“Once the initial frustration is over, some students are actually relieved that this will allow them time to consider something that they really want to do instead of heading down a path that they may have felt they had to follow,” she said.
Lorig said that the number of students who have registered to participate in upcoming job fairs has increased over past years. Washington and Lee is part of a consortium of 14 national liberal arts colleges that stage job fairs in New York, Chicago, Washington and Boston. According to Lorig, the fairs will include employers from a range of industries.
While surveys do see a flattening of the job market for graduating seniors in most sectors of the economy, Lorig said exceptions are the federal government and health care, which may be options students might not have considered in the past.
In addition, she said that more students mention the possibility of entering graduate or professional school after graduation. “Whenever we hear this, all of us in the counseling staff start to examine it with the students because they need to understand that their career is not going to graduate school,” said Lorig. “We want students to examine candidly their motivation and not use graduate studies as a default.”
Lorig noted that W&L students have always benefited from having alumni assist them in their career searches, and that such support will be particularly valuable in the current climate.