Office of Career Services

Job hunting in tough times

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Career Services Director Roger Young offers students and alumni tips for searching for jobs in a competitive market.

With unemployment continuing to rise nationally, 2009 will be a tough year for college graduates seeking employment. Competition for jobs will increase as laid off workers compete with new graduates for jobs. The good news for Southwestern graduates is that Texas is in better shape than most states in terms of jobs.

Roger Young, director of Career Services at Southwestern, offers the following tips for job hunting in these tough times:

What industries have plenty of jobs available? 

There should be jobs in the healthcare sector, education and government. If the price of oil goes back up, there will be more jobs in that sector, as well as new jobs in alternative energy fields. Financial services and insurance should fare well, too, because there are a large number of baby boomers who will be trying to determine how to best prepare for retirement. 

What industries are shrinking?

The consulting field will be hit in the economic downturn, as well as jobs in travel/entertainment - hotels, restaurants, etc. This is already happening in Las Vegas.

Jobs in advertising will tighten up and construction also will suffer in 2009.  

What advice do you have for college students seeking employment?

First, don’t panic. There are jobs out there, even in a weak economy. You need to have a strategy for locating the right one for you.

Second, go to the Career Services office on campus and make an appointment to talk to a career counselor about developing your own strategy. They will work with you on things such as self-assessment, building your resume, perfecting your interviewing skills and how to effectively search for jobs.

Third, make sure you start building a network of people to help you (in addition to the Career Center). People like your parents, relatives, friends, faculty, fraternity brothers, sorority sisters and Southwestern alumni.  Even your roommate’s parents may be able to connect you to a job contact. 

Fourth, you need to be able to persevere, as your search could last a few months up to almost a year. Searching for a job can be more exhausting than actually working. If you go into the process understanding how tough it can be, you will be able to weather those initial rejections better.

Use your free time while you are job hunting to learn new skills such as public speaking. The ability to stand in front of a group of strangers and give an engaging speech is extremely valuable to prospective employers. Joining an organization such as Toastmasters is worth the time, and it looks fantastic on a resume.

Finally, use every tool at your disposal to get your resume out to employers. The Career Center, staffing or temporary agencies, the Internet and newspapers are all options, but networking with people will be the most effective tool. Having someone refer you to an organization is much more powerful than sending in an unsolicited resume. In today’s market, companies have to be very smart about who they hire because they don’t have the time and money to make a wrong choice. Therefore, they are extremely selective in who they pick. In many instances, networking gives employers a kind of “built-in referral,” and that helps.