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After ’Deis: Recent graduates discuss the job market

By Alana Blum

Section: Features

September 23, 2011

Given the choice, most students would not choose to enter the job market in the middle of a recession. Some have opted to stay in school, hoping to wait out the economic downturn. Others have chosen to travel abroad or get an unpaid internship. But some students are unable to afford any of these options. Others might be unsure of which field they want to enter. Whatever the reason, these Brandeis graduates spent this summer rigorously job searching, hoping that a small window of opportunity might open somewhere.

The class of 2011 was sent off into the real world with words of optimism and hope. Each commencement speaker had their words of advice to offer the anxious graduates. New York Times writer David Brooks helpfully suggested that the graduates stop searching for a career and instead ask themselves: “What problem is life summoning me to tackle?”

Brandeis President Frederick Lawrence similarly maintained that the graduates have every reason to remain optimistic. Four months later, Brandeis graduates have had time to experience the job market for themselves. Now they can see for themselves what hope the real world has to offer them.

Early in her senior year, Kayla Cronin ’11 made the tough choice between going straight to law school and taking a year off to live in the real world. Hoping to gain legal experience and stand out in her law school application, Cronin decided to take time off before applying to law school.

“I also wanted to make sure it’s what I want to do. I don’t want to go through law school and find out after three years that I don’t like the field,” Cronin said.

Unfortunately, finding a law firm that is hiring has proven to be the most difficult part. Although Cronin began applying before her senior year ended, most firms did not even get back to her. Many of the law firms require a certain amount of prior experience, which recent college graduates simply don’t have.

Eventually Cronin decided to create an online profile on job-search websites such as Monster and Craigslist. A recruiter contacted her and found her a job at a call center but Cronin ultimately decided that job wasn’t for her. Cronin is still focusing her energy on finding a job at a law firm and remaining optimistic. She plans on making use of the Hiatt Career Center, which offers career help for Brandeis students and alumni.

She plans to remain persistent, realizing that in today’s job market, finding a job right away isn’t always likely. Cronin knows it is too early to become completely discouraged, but has compared the search to finals week at Brandeis.

“Based on my experience so far, I’d prefer the stress of doing tests and papers compared to having the stress of job searching and having loans to pay every month when you have no income,” Cronin said.

Jennifer Silverberg ’10 also decided to turn straight to the job market. After graduating in December, she, like Cronin, decided to wait for graduate school.

“I was looking into applying [to graduate school], but although I was pretty positive I wanted to do social work, I wasn’t 100 percent sure. I guess I didn’t want to go straight to grad school without full time work experience in the field first.”

Silverberg was glad she made the choice to gain real world experience first because, after working for a short time at a psychiatric hospital, she began to dislike the field. She felt that she was lucky to be able to find a job so quickly and believed that her college internships definitely helped her stand out from other applicants. The psychiatric hospital, however, did not seem like the right fit and Silverberg eventually decided to leave.

Upon returning to the job market, Silverberg realized that most employers do not get back to applicants.

“The job market is really dead,” she said with a laugh.

She soon heard, however, about a temp agency called “Professionals for Non-profits,” which matches applicants with jobs at non-profit organizations. She visited the agency on a Friday and received a job by the following Monday.

“I would definitely recommend those type of agencies. Most of them don’t work very well, but if they work it’s great because they give you a job … and you get to see what you like and don’t like about places without having to commit,” she said.

Like Cronin and Silverberg, Evan Glickman ’11 decided that it would be in his best interest to enter the real world first before going to grad school.

“I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. What if you spend eight years getting your doctorate and then you decide you don’t want to do it? It would be a waste of all that time and money. Figure out if it’s worth it,” Glickman said.

During his final semester at Brandeis, Glickman sent out many applications and received few responses. He decided to take a new approach during the summer. Rather than trying to land job interviews, he instead began going on informational interviews. He started meeting with real estate employers to learn more about the field.

After attending between 15 and 20 informational interviews throughout the summer, Glickman felt more knowledgeable about the real estate field. The interviews helped him become more familiar with real estate terminology and when he started going on job interviews, he felt as if he knew what he was talking about. As a result, he began receiving job offers by the end of August. He now works at a real estate company in Philadelphia.

In Glickman’s opinion, Brandeis seniors should start researching their prospective fields by the fall semester of their senior year in order to begin formulating a plan.

“First you have to have an idea of what you want,” Glickman explained, “Just having a plan is a quarter of what you need to do. It would be hard for me to imagine getting a good job without having a plan that went back at least a year.”

Glickman works 11-hour days but considers himself lucky to have found a job so quickly. He explained that when the country is in an economic recession, a lot of people are laid off from their jobs and must reenter the job search. College graduates are therefore competing with people who have had years of experience. Since it’s expensive to train new people, employers would rather hire laid-off workers rather than students fresh out of college and the unemployment rate of recent college graduates remains quite high.

It’s no secret that today’s job market is tough and stressful. Unemployment rates remain high and those who are able to find jobs that they actually enjoy consider themselves lucky. When David Brooks instructed the class of 2011 to search for a problem that life is summoning them to tackle rather than a career, it certainly sounded helpful at the time. Four months later, however, college graduates are beginning to realize that they cannot afford to be so picky—at least not yet.

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