New college grads face job market with optimism

MIDDLEBURY — As Middlebury College seniors gear up for graduation in just a few weeks, Don Kjelleren, the head of the college’s Career Services Office, said most students are facing up to the task of finding a job with a more positive view than he has seen over the past few years.
“The outlook is cautiously optimistic — all trends are up at the moment,” he said.
That’s not to say students aren’t stressed about their next steps after college, but Kjelleren said there’s a sense that putting work into job applications and interviews isn’t just practice for when the job market picks back up — something that he said the office has seen in the past few years.
Now, he said, students are going into job interviews with more hope that there may be employment at the other end.
“Two years ago there was a sense of ‘why bother,’ or looking to defer the job search and go to grad school,” said Kjelleren. “Now it’s a less risky proposition.”
Although Kjelleren won’t have the numbers on how many have already found employment until next week, when seniors will report on their post-graduation plans, he said that so far there seems to be a slight uptick in jobs available to students graduating this May. This spring has seen an increase over last year in jobs posted on the college’s jobs system.
Kjelleren’s anecdotal evidence is corroborated by the spring 2011 report of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which, following a survey of all its members, is reporting a 19.5 percent increase in hiring of new graduates.
These numbers are already exceeding expectations, as the organization predicted last fall that spring would bring an increase in hiring of only 13.5 percent over last year’s numbers.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nationwide the unemployment rate is 9 percent, down from 9.8 percent a year ago. That is up from 4.9 percent during the same month in 2008.
Kjelleren said that there are areas where his office has seen a definite increase in employers looking to hire. After two years of near absence from the campus recruiting scene, financial service organizations are back in force.
The Career Services Office is waiting for the results of an annual senior survey to find out what percentage of this year’s graduating class is employed, but Kjelleren said the real indicator will be in six months, with the results of a follow-up survey that the college conducts. Last year was the first time that the survey was conducted, and the percentage of respondents who were employed jumped from 34 percent at graduation to 52 percent six months later.
And while it may take some time for employment numbers to jump back up to pre-recession levels, Kjelleren said student optimism is very apparent in comparison to those students who graduated in May of 2009.
“I don’t think anyone has rose-colored glasses on,” he said. “But it’s less daunting.”
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].

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