by: Camille Wick – Staff Writer – firstname.lastname@example.org
The national unemployment rate is at its lowest since Obama’s inauguration in January 2009, which directly affects recent and soon-to-be college graduates, according to a recent study by the Bureau of Labor.
“From our perspective, we have seen a change,” said Katie McGee, a career counselor at UNC Asheville. “What we’ve seen a lot of in the past few years with graduates and students who are getting close to graduation is a lot of anxiety about entering a job market that’s unstable or that is perceived to be unstable.”
Some graduates continue to have difficulty in finding a job, despite the decreased unemployment rate.
Eben Fenton graduated with a literature degree from UNCA in May, but he moved back home because he could not find a job in Asheville.
“I moved back to New Jersey because I had lost my job, and I felt like I needed to help out my parents at least for the winter,” Fenton said. “I was also aware of the approaching payment deadlines on my student loans.”
Abby Wood, an Ohio University graduate, moved to Asheville in March 2011, and she has entered the job market twice since her move.
“It’s not easy to find a job in Asheville,” Wood said. “It’s not easy to find a job anywhere. It took me two months to find a job when I first moved to Asheville.”
Wood said she found her most recent job more easily.
“I have found in my most recent job search that knowing someone is the quickest way to employment,” Wood said. “This was the case for me most recently, and I was hired almost immediately.”
Avery Artman, a UNCA senior and health and wellness promotion student, plans to graduate in December.
“I think finding a job will be difficult for many recent graduates,” Artman said. “I’m lucky that health care is a growing field, and health policy analysts are needed in the current job market.”
Artman is graduating a semester earlier than the typical four-year degree.
Graduating a semester early and entering the job market sooner is not a disadvantage, Artman said.
“Since I will only be in the ‘real world’ for a brief period of time after graduation, I’m not too concerned,” Artman said. “I plan to attend graduate school as soon as possible to further develop my skills and become a more competitive candidate for a job in my field.”
Artman’s decision to graduate early allows her to go to graduate school sooner, she said.
“An undergraduate degree is virtually meaningless now,” Artman said. “I cut my undergraduate career short to save money and go immediately into graduate school and become more qualified.”
The UNCA Career Center hosts a Career and Graduate School Fair every fall and a Job and Internship Fair every spring.
At the most recent job fair on Oct. 16, about 73 employers and graduate schools were represented, which is an increase from last year, McGee said.
“There was a lull in our job postings on our job posting system, and that is no more,” McGee said. “We’re seeing job postings being posted every single day. It’s a good, positive change, and I think students are feeling more confident as they get closer to graduation, and that’s being reflected in the types of appointments we’re having.”
The relationship between companies and the Career Center changed in the past year, McGee said.
“We’re seeing companies contact us more and being more proactive about trying to establish a relationship with UNC Asheville,” McGee said. “They’re actively recruiting students, and that really wasn’t the case for a year or two.”
The many people who live in Asheville and want to stay here after graduation make the competitiveness of the Asheville job market tougher, McGee said.
“I’ve been mostly in the food service industry, and unless you have experience or know somebody, it’s especially hard to sway an employer,” Fenton said. “There are just too many recent grads looking to hang around and too few jobs.”
There is a misconception that the types of jobs available in Asheville are limited to the service and tourism industries, which is not the case, McGee said.
“There’s a lot of jobs in manufacturing and banking and healthcare,” McGee said. “Whereas it’s a smaller job market and competition is tough, there are lots of jobs out there. You just have to know how to market yourself.”
Both Fenton and Wood said they have not noticed an influx of job opportunities in the past few years.
“Of course I think the unemployment rate being at its lowest in four years is a great sign,” Wood said. “However, I still have a hard time believing that college grads will leave school and necessarily acquire a job in the field that they studied.”
Wood said she does not think that a college degree is necessary in most job opportunities.
“I feel that the jobs that are opening up now do not, in most cases, even require a degree, which is great for non-college grads seeking employment,” Wood said.
Big companies have moved to Asheville and Western North Carolina more recently, which has increased the number of jobs available to recent and soon-to-be graduates, McGee said.
“We don’t go out and ask employers to post with us,” McGee said. “If it’s a big employer, we try to make contact with them and establish a good relationship, but typically employers contact us. They want to recruit our students and alumni.”
The Career Center has a two-fold mission: to prepare students for their transitions, whether it’s graduate school or a career, and to connect students with opportunity, McGee said.
Career counselors can help students and alumni at any stage in the job finding process, from resume tips to interview skills, McGee said.
“I encourage students to use the Career Center, use the Writing Center while they’re in school, and even when they graduate, they can use our services for free,” McGee said. “You don’t have to know what you want to do or what kind of job you want.”