WESTMINSTER — David B. Wetherson graduated from Western Maryland College on a Saturday.
Two days later he went to work as a retail control specialist.
"I lucked out," said the 22-year-old Westminster resident. "I have a lot of bills to pay. There are a lot of graduates out there looking for a job."
Cathy Nosel, WMC's director of career development, said this year's graduates face one of the toughest job markets in recent memory. But she said students who reacted quickly to the economic downturn by sending out resumes early and taking advantage of contacts and interviews have fared well.
Wetherson, a business administration and economics major, was among the 281 undergraduates and 69 graduates awarded degrees from WMC. The Class of 1991 was among the largest in WMC's history.
Nosel said her office will survey graduates in about a year to determine who landed jobs, went on to graduate school or other endeavors.
"Students who have tried to get their act together early have given themselves more opportunities in looking for jobs," Nosel said.
Wetherson took advantage of contacts in securing his job with T. Rowe Price, a discount brokerage firm in Baltimore and Owings Mills. He gave his resume to the fiancee of one his professors, who works at the firm. She handed it over to the personnel department.
"That got me an interview, and I was one of a group ofpeople hired," Wetherson said.
The South Carroll High School graduate has been on his job for a little more than two weeks. He has spent most of that time in training with other new employees.
"I likethe job," he said. "I think it's going to be a great company to workfor. There are a lot of young people and we're learning together."
Wetherson is facing his future with certainty -- something some of his peers are not.
"These kids have been in the classroom every fall for the last 12, 13, 14 years," said Barbara J. Disharoon, WMC's assistant dean of academic affairs/registrar. "They know that environment, and for the first time they are facing uncertainty. They don't have that predetermined plan, and that can be frustrating."
Many students, she said, delay confronting uncertainty and the routine work world by going on to graduate school or taking a year off to travel the country or Europe.
Wetherson, a golf and sports enthusiast, wasn't always certain about his future, though.
Like many freshman, he began his college career undecided about a profession. He said he discovered his interest in business when he enrolled in an economics course.
"I took a few more business courses and decided I liked it," he said.
Disharoon said students like Wetherson who have dual majors make themselves more marketable. Dual majors also will benefit graduates who want to change career paths at some point, she said.
Wetherson said his college courses, especially a money and banking class he took last semester, prepared him well for his first professional job.
"I don't think any course could really prepare you for a job after college," he said. "But I think I left school pretty well prepared to work here."
Internships enhanced his college education. Wetherson worked in the county Office of Management and Budget last summer and during WMC's January Term.
"He was pretty nervous when he first got here," said Jeff Topper, operating budget and revenue supervisor. "He picked up things very quickly and performed important tasks very ably."
Among the tasks Wetherson performed were plugging numbers into the office's main computer system, tracking revenue sources and helping with a financial condition report, which is reviewed by bond rating agencies to determine a county's financial situation. A county's bond rating is based partially on that report.
"It's animportant report," Topper said. "Dave was very helpful and instrumental in helping us put together the report. We were happy to have him.He's a nice guy to work with, and I think his experience here probably helped him land a job."
Wetherson also has worked with his father, Glenn, a geo-technical engineer.
"He really has worked hard the past four years," said his mother, Carol, who is office manager of public information at WMC. "His dad and I are real proud of him. We are thrilled."