Posted May 8, 2012

Despite struggling economy, optimism, opportunity prevail

Joseph V. Labolito
Soon-to-be Temple grads are approaching the nation's stagnant job market with an optimistic outlook and a willingness to go beyond the traditional career search to find new opportunities.

When students in the Class of 2012 started college, the economy was in a tailspin and in response, the job market tightened significantly. Students were told that preparation for their job search needed to start early — in fact on day one. Further, they’d need to double their efforts to stand out amidst the competition.

“They had to do things differently,” said Rachel Brown, director of Temple’s Career Center. “We did too — we had to offer even more options for students.”

Despite the doom and gloom, students, faculty and staff have responded enthusiastically to the new realities, and Brown reports an overall sense of optimism, willingness to go beyond the traditional job search and creativity in finding opportunities.

“This is really the class that is going to be the most prepared; they came in knowing that the game had changed,” said Brown.

The Career Center took a multi-pronged approach to help students break into the challenging job market: reaching out to students earlier, increasing professional development opportunities for freshmen and sophomores and targeting specific majors and areas of interest. Temple’s schools and colleges also intensified their outreach and offerings on professional development and job search strategy.

Overall, experts agreed that the key was to start early.

“At orientation, we encouraged new students to start using the Career Center their freshman year,” said Brown.

Administrators in Temple’s College of Science and Technology (CST) tell students on the first day to start building their resume.

“I say, ‘Today you need to start thinking about what you have to do to build your resume. What activities, volunteer work and passions do you want to convey in your resume?’” said Rose McGinnis, director of the Center for Student Professional Development at CST.

At the Fox School of Business, Center for Student Professional Development (CSPD) executive director Corinne Snell says that students realized they needed to start the whole job search and professional development track earlier.

“This meant joining a student professional organization, getting an internship, having a plan and targeting industries. It’s a lot of work, but it’s critical,” said Snell.

Despite the reality of the struggling economy, Fox’s CSPD saw only a 14 percent decrease in recruitment activity in 2008-09, and it has consistently increased since: 32 percent in 2009-10 and 19 percent in 2010-11. This year, postings are 19 percent ahead and the recruiting cycle continues through Mid-August.

In fact, the number of employers recruiting all academic majors through the Career Center has also steadily increased. At the Spring Interview Extravaganza for seniors, the number of employers who interviewed students in the Class of 2012 was double the number of employers who participated last year.

In addition to traditional events and offerings such as job fairs, on-site job interviews, resume critiques, mock interviewing sessions and etiquette dinners, the university now offers for-credit professional development courses for all majors. These classes teach students how to network effectively, uncover job opportunities and increase the chances of getting interviews.

There are also now more programs targeted to specific majors, for instance, “Marketing your Liberal Arts degree” and “Foreign Language Careers,” as well as specific fields and areas of interest, including “Careers with Non-Profits,” “Federal Job Search” and “Working for the United Nations.”

Another shift fueled by the economic downturn has been a rise in entrepreneurship among students and new graduates. Classes across the university lead students in exploring entrepreneurial opportunities in their majors, and the Fox School’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute offers programs for the entire university including the yearly “Be Your Own Boss Bowl” competition.

Although science and technology industries have recovered faster from the recession, they were hit just as hard in the beginning. That has led CST to focus on increasing business partnerships.

“Three summers ago, there were no internships,” said McGinnis. “We had to find alternative ways for students to nail down the skill sets they’d need to get jobs, so we started growing our partnerships with companies and corporations.”

One creative partnership is allowing students to work virtually and gain real-life skills. The insurance software company iPipeline, based in Exton, brought students in for paid training over winter break then equipped them with laptops and mentors so they could work remotely during the semester.

The creativity, optimism and willingness all add up for Temple students and especially today’s graduates. Plus, they all share a special Temple trait.

“Temple students are resilient,” said Brown. “The need to hire new college graduates hasn't gone away. The jobs are out there, and students are going to do whatever they need to do to get them."