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College Grads Must Work Even Harder to Find Jobs

College Grads Must Work Even Harder to Find Jobs

The Morning Call, Allentown, Pennsylvania

November 03, 2009

And the tough economy has created a distressing paradox. Just as students most need career-placement services, many colleges are cutting budgets in their career centers as part of their own belt-tightening.

About 55 percent of college career centers nationwide are cutting their 2009-10 spending plans, according to preliminary results of a survey being conducted by NACE. Lehigh Valley college career centers haven’t made sharp cuts, but some are running leaner.

Worse yet, career-services departments are now catering to more than just current students. Recent grads who haven’t found work or were laid off are returning for help. In fact, some alumni are returning decades after graduation to use job-placement services.

For Kate Hunter, director of career services and internships at DeSales University, that meant she had to brush up on techniques to help people land mid-career jobs. “Sometimes, we’re combing through 20 years of experience on an old resume to find skills that are transferable to the current job market,” Hunter said.

To cope with the bad job market – unemployment is 9.8 percent nationally – local colleges are launching new programs, revamping old ones and tapping alumni for help.

At Lehigh University in Bethlehem, job postings dropped off a cliff in the spring. The career center started e-mailing alumni who might help. That doesn’t sound extraordinary, except that for the first time it e-mailed every single living alumnus it had an address for _ an estimated 10,000, said Donna Goldfeder, director of career services. Goldfeder corresponded personally with every alum who offered a job lead. The result? Some 300 job opportunities for Lehigh grads, she said.

“We broadened our net with employer outreach too, but to be honest, that didn’t have nearly the effect of reaching out to the alums did,” Goldfeder said. By the spring semester, the career center plans to have a new online database to help students contact alumni directly.

A sampling of new efforts:

Moravian started a pilot program this fall called Career Connections. It matches students with advisers based on their interests and targeted professions. It also has “Lunch and Learn” events, including recent and upcoming ones with recruiters from Major League Baseball and Mars Inc., maker of M&Ms and Juicy Fruit.

Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., is tapping more than 600 volunteer alumni and parents to participate in mock interviews over the phone and in person. Students are using InterviewStream, an interviewing practice tool that allows students to record mock interviews using a webcam for later critique.

Northampton Community College has launched a job club that will offer advice on such topics as entry-level resumes and job fairs, networking and interviewing techniques.