On April 9th I got a message from a guy I went to college with who is now the editor of The Journal, the East Central University newspaper. He told me he was writing an article on jobs and successful ECU graduates and wanted to get some quotes from me.
Here's how the article turned out (btw I'm retyping all of this from the print article because the PDF wouldn't work for me):
"Graduating Students Search for Employment: Prospective Employees Remain Hopeful in Economy
By Rob Inman
The job market for about-to-graduate college students is lacking in opportunity, according to a recent edition of the Wall Street Journal.
East Central University is no exception when it comes to the effects of the Great Recession.
In 2003, 52 percent of the U.S. population had some form of college with just over 27 percent having at least a bachelor's degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau report on education attainment in the United States. With the number of college-educated individuals rising with each year, the competition for entry-level jobs has become fiercer. Simply having a bachelor's degree isn't enough anymore.
Teaching, for example, once believed by many as recession-proof, is no longer a career with an immediate, guaranteed job. According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, funding for public education saw a five percent drop in 2010 with the prospect of more cuts on the horizon.
"Unfortunately, due to multiple issues including budget cutbacks, lack of experience, and entering the job market too late, I was unable to find a teaching position," Daryl Gandy, Spring 2009 graduate in history education said.
One of the most consistently mentioned aspects of successful job hunting is networking.
"People land jobs 80 percent of the time through networking contacts," Todd Essary, director of career development, said. "It is huge to get out and visit your top five, 10 or 15 employers and meet contacts face to face with proper application and resume' information."
Despite the current economic climate, it is not all bad news, and there are many graduates still able to find available work.
"Networking really does matter," Lee McElroy, Spring 2009 graduate, warehouse supervisor and environmental consultant for People's Electric Cooperative, said. "I worked for PEC part-time through college, and even did my environmental health science internship there. Because they knew me and knew I did a good job, they offered me a full-time position once I graduated. Diligence and hard work are important.
McElroy went on to say that a lot of people in environmental health science end up getting a job offer with a company for which they intern.
Not every ECU graduate took the traditional route of filling out applications and doing interviews to be hired in order to make a living. Some have started their own businesses as a way of employment.
"I started my business during my senior year," Whitney Fletcher, Spring 2009 graduate and owner of Generation Gap, a fashion store that specializes in vintage goods, said. "In Fall 2009 when I went 100 percent self-employed I already had a established business and some money in the bank. As most people know, you have to spend money to make money.'
Fletcher's business is completely run by her web site, generationgap.etsy.com.
"The Internet is my business," Fletcher said. "When I started my store, my first online sale was a handmade hat to a young lady in the United Kingdom. Without the Internet that would never have been possible."
Fletcher believed it was her hard work that caused her business to become a success and offers the same advice to others.
"Don't give up," she said "It took me a few months before I really felt like I was getting anywhere with my business, but now when someone asks what I do I can proudly say, 'I am a business owner.'"
So what does it take to become successful in an economy teetering on 10 percent reported unemployment?
"Qualities such as enthusiasm, positive attitude, professionalism, leadership, flexibility, and self confidence," Essary said. "Self-confidence is a quality many graduating seniors have a tough time with and need to work on to land a top tier entry level professional position."
Whitney Fletcher poses in her custom made apparel she designed herself.