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How to find a job in today’s economy

The stories of people getting up a job offers at oddball places, like a soccer field, are being few and far between. Companies are no longer so hard up for educated workers that they literally give jobs to any warm body that’s able to think, like the good old days of the internet boom.

“We have a bad market right now,” said Shirley Weishaar, director of the Mills College Career Center. She said she hasn’t been visited by very many graduating seniors so far this semester. “I don’t know if people aren’t paying attention or if they’re in denial, but it’s going to take longer to find jobs.”

But it’s not all bad news. The Internet boom may have turned out to be an over-inflated balloon, and we hear about layoffs and hiring freezes everyday, but it doesn’t mean that all companies have completely stopped hiring.

“It’s not as easy as before,” said Yimei Wong, a student in the new Mills MBA program who will graduate in May, “but it’s not impossible.”

Wong is one of the thousands of new graduates who will enter the workforce this summer, and the health of the U.S. economy will have a direct impact on whether or not they will find a job, not to mention the type of job.

In the past year, the economy has taken many hits, from the crash of dotcom stocks to the events of Sept. 11, which propelled the nation into a recession.

The unemployment rate rose as companies folded, laid off workers, or began hiring freezes. This is bad news for soon-to-be graduates, because it means the market is flooded with both the usual competition from other graduates, and professionals who have lost their jobs.

While many experts say it is still too early to know which way the economy is headed in the long term, some are optimistic.

Randall Hansen, a career counselor who publishes a Web site geared toward recent graduates (, said that as companies become more confident of an economic rebound, the employment picture will slowly brighten.

“I think graduating seniors will have a better time of finding jobs this May than those who graduated in December of 2001,” he said, “but it’s going to take a commitment by each graduate to work at finding those job offers.”

Think: no more job offers on the grass fields of San Francisco.

“The soccer field example is just an example of how people functioned at that time,” said Wong, whose friend got a job at the height of the Internet boom at Cisco that way. Wong said she has just started her own job search, which is going well, but the job market is tightening. Worse, some jobs just aren’t there anymore.

While employment in some fields is in decline, others are taking off. Randall said the that there are some promising industries in our present recession.

“Defense companies, security companies and drug and pharmaceutical companies are all hiring people,” he said. “Healthcare and construction are still going strong, and education and government jobs will continue to grow.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 30 fastest growing occupations, 17 are health-related. Although technology jobs are in decline in the short-term, they will make up 10 of the 30 fastest growing occupations in the next ten years, according to the organization’s employment outlook report for 2000 to 2010.

Weishaar, however, cautions students against relying too much on statistics to figure out where the jobs or the economy will be when they graduate.

“Frankly, I don’t think anyone can predict the future,” she said. Her advice to students is to stay informed, attend career seminars and keep an eye out on the economic trends.

And if the economic uncertainties scare you so much that you’d rather wait it out in graduate school and find a job when the good times roll again, you might find increased competition there, too.

Typically, applicants for graduate programs increase when the economy is bad, as laid off professionals head back to school and recent graduates stay away from the job market, said Weishaar.

She said she expects to see in this year’s senior survey a higher percentage of students who plan to continue school after graduation.