Job prospects for grads center on smaller firms

SUNDAY OUTLOOK

May 01, 1994|By Joel Obermayer

The last three springs have brought with them new crops of college graduates who struggled to find jobs amid a sluggish economy.

This year the economy finally seems to be picking up speed. Does that mean the job market will be better for this year's group? Are some industries or types of businesses in better position to hire than others?

Benjamin Scott Psillas

Consultant and author on job markets

It's looking really good for students now that a majority of companies have finished their downsizing. Most personnel directors in the area tell me they have bottomed out. Companies wanted to get down to an efficient size so they could grow from there. They are looking for new ideas and new energy.

A lot of corporations feel they still do have the upper hand in the hiring process. They will hire for an internship or to work part time, but that's the way to get a foot in the door and make contacts.

The fields that are moving fastest are anything that is high-tech or related to the information highway. A lot of those companies have been going through extraordinary growth, they are regearing and getting ready for the next phase. They need technical people, but they also need people with liberal arts backgrounds to do all sorts of things.

Traci A. Martin

Assistant Director for Employer Services at the Career Center University of Maryland

I still think it's a tough market out there. Graduates will be competing with graduates from last December who still have not found work and they will have to compete with full-time employees elsewhere who have been laid off.

We are encouraging students to start thinking about small- and mid-size companies. Larger companies are hiring, but not in the same volume as they were 10 or 15 years ago.

It is a change from the mind-set most people have, they are used to thinking about companies that are household names and often don't know about other opportunities. Many of these small firms have 50 or fewer employees. But a lot of these employers don't have the time or the money to come to campus, so students will have to go out and find them.

Victor R. Lindquist

Placement director and author of Lindquist-Endicott Report Northwestern University

The data shows a reversal from four years of declining jobs. We are pleased and yet it will be a process of slow building instead of an explosion.

We have one of the heaviest recruiting seasons this spring that I have seen in years, but the Fortune 500 are no longer as active as they have been. Now it is smaller firms that are much less organized when they look for hires.

Industry by industry it's impossible to tell. Look at the retailing for example, you find some firms are competing like the dickens for new graduates and others where they're in the process of selling stores and lay offs.

Rather than look by industry, you have to read the business press to see who is enjoying success and good earnings -- they're the ones hiring.

Ken Goldstein

Labor economist

The Conference Board, New York

It's better prospects after three really horrible years, but that's really faint praise. We are still a long shot from the salad days of 1988 and 1989.

All those students who wound up pumping gas in the last three years will have a chance to find some job. But longer term, corporate downsizing means that many high paying jobs have )) been eliminated permanently.

Manufacturing industries are only adding people when someone retires, quits or is fired.

Net new job growth is going to be in services. By definition that means smaller companies. One of the things that is going to separate graduates from their parents is that many of them are going to create their own job, say by starting their own small service company.

Few of them are going to be California bound, now they're much more likely to end up in Boise or Salt Lake City.

Still the ones who are really lucky are next year's graduating class. If all goes well, they should have a much easier time.

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