College graduates find themselves in tough job market

Caroline MuthaisuReid Pearson doesn’t expect to land his dream job straight out of college, although he admits many in his generation do.

“Although I’m hoping for the best, I don’t feel entitled to it. I know I have to work for it,” said Pearson, who just graduated from the University of Central Florida. At 22, he’s part of the Millennials, or Generation Y, those born since about 1980 and successors to Generation X and the baby boomers.

For Pearson and thousands of other new graduates spilling out of colleges across the country this month, unemployment statistics and surveys suggest finding a job in this economy will be hard labor.

Only 19.7 percent of 2009 graduates who have applied for jobs have landed one, according to a National Association of Colleges and Employers survey released this week. That compares with the 26 percent in 2008 and 51 percent in 2007 who applied for and nailed down jobs by graduation time.

Those graduating with bachelor’s degrees don’t appear to be flocking to graduate school to wait things out, NACE reports. About 27 percent of 2009 graduates surveyed said they were planning to chase graduate degrees instead of jobs, compared with 24 percent of 2008 graduates.

Some new graduates tell us about their own job searches and what sustains them.


just graduated from the University of Central Florida with a hard-won bachelor’s degree in nursing. She will take only a few days to relax after years of rigorous study, public service, restaurant jobs to pay bills and hardly any time to sleep. Soon she will need to dedicate even more time to study for her licensing exam, which she must pass to get the jobs she wants.

The search for that first job, however, might take longer than she expected.

In recent years, nursing students were graduating with job offers already in hand because demand was so high. Now, hiring decisions are taking longer and competition is stiff in big cities for the most desirable jobs, she said.

She wants critical-care experience in an emergency room or intensive-care unit so she can someday become a certified nurse anesthetist. So she checks online postings for nursing jobs every day and continues to earn a living as a restaurant server, hopeful that the right nursing job will come along eventually.

Muthaisu, 28, never considered nursing as a career before leaving her native Kenya in search of greater opportunity. She signed up at UCF about five years ago and chose nursing over ultrasound technology because it would be “a bit more rewarding” professionally.

Becoming a nurse would make her family proud and perhaps help her fulfill a wish: to open a rural clinic back home in Kenya.

“People in those areas have no access to health care or the money to go somewhere to get it,” she said.

The clinic would be a way of giving back to her native country. People in her village held a fundraiser to help cover her first semester’s tuition at UCF. Their faith ? and her family’s emotional support ? sustained her as she tried to scrape together money for her education.

“No way was I going to let them down,” she said.


Reid Pearson wants a job protecting people, and he wants to start soon.

“I don’t like downtime,” he said.

But whether he winds up working for the Secret Service, the FBI or a city police department is still up in the air.

Pearson, of Jacksonville, Fla., applied for 40 law-enforcement jobs across the country and abroad before his graduation from UCF with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

No nibbles so far.

“This job market might get the best of me,” he said.

He has been working as a grocery clerk at Publix to earn money ? a job he appreciates ? but is eager to make the leap to law enforcement.

He also would like to see more of the world while he’s young, he said, which adds to the allure of a job with the U.S. Department of State.

Earlier this year, he spent a few months in Washington as an intern with that agency’s diplomatic-security branch. While there, he did research and stood vigil with agents protecting VIPs such as foreign ambassadors. He also had up-close looks at President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. John Kerry.

Pearson would consider joining the military if he can’t get the job he wants, he said. One thing he’s sure about: no boring 9-to-5 office jobs with no element of public service ? even if it comes with a fat paycheck.

“I want to feel like I’m making a difference,” he said of his true calling. “It’s about serving a greater purpose, protecting a way of life.”


Danielle Morris isn’t overly concerned about her lack of a job; she just graduated from Bethune-Cookman University with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering.

Soon, she’ll be heading from the Daytona Beach campus to South Carolina for a summer internship. And if an offer for a tech job hasn’t come along by the time it is over, she will find a part-time job while she waits.

“It’s not as bad as it looks,” she said of the job market. “You can realize your goals as long as you stay focused.”

Morris, 22, said she always has had a passion for technology. Computer engineering provides broad instruction that can lead to a variety of job opportunities, especially in software, she said.

She hopes connections made during internships the past three years at Tampa Brass & Aluminum Corp., a defense contractor, also will help her land a full-time job.

Although she plans to work toward a master’s degree, Morris would prefer to start making some money before continuing her education.

After five years at B-CU, she said, “I want to start paying off those student loans.”

(c) 2009, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.). Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.