Spring of 1991 is not exactly the best time to be emerging from the ivory towers of academia, most observers agree.
Today's graduating college seniors are looking for work during a recession that has depleted the nation's economy of more than 1.5 million jobs in less than a year.
"I've been in career development for 20 years and this year I would not want to be a college senior looking for a job," said Bill Carson, director of the Career Development Office at Morgan State University.
But Mr. Carson quickly added that as gloomy as prospects might seem, there are plenty of bright spots for young job seekers with the right attitude.
"It's not that bad for the student who is competitive and aggressive in his or her job search, and is perhaps willing to settle right now for what might not seem to be the ideal job," Mr. Carson said.
"Don't limit your geographic area of search, open up your options and evaluate your skills to determine how those skills might be marketable," he advised.
Some college career counselors are finding that the recession has prompted graduating seniors to re-orient their thinking about the future.
"We see more interest than ever in graduate studies, in the Peace Corps, Service America and VISTA [Volunteers in Service to America]," said John Martello, director of the
Office of Professional Practice at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Although the number of businesses recruiting on campuses declined this year, that is not likely to have a profound effect on the job market, said Ed Duggins, director of the Career Development Office at Goucher. On-campus recruiting accounts for only a small percentage of eventual job placement, he said, adding that the employment picture developing for the Class of '91 will remain incomplete for some time.
"I don't think we're going to know for a while how bad it is for the new graduates," he said. "Most colleges don't even bother to survey graduates until six months after graduation. During the -- summer they're still exploring, still poking around, and many won't really begin serious job-
hunting until September. The fact that a student doesn't have a job three days after graduation doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot."
Prospects are brightest for students looking for jobs in health services, engineering, telecommunications and computers, Mr. Duggins said. But graduates in other fields should not conclude that their four years of hard work and expensive tuition was money down the drain, he continued.
"One can talk about Ph.Ds driving cabs but the fact is, education level has a lot to do with whether you're working," he said. "The more education you have, the less likely you are to be unemployed. Less than 3 percent of college graduates are unemployed, compared to a national average that's more than 6 percent."