“On May 20, 2012, when the Bucknell University seniors are walking across the stage in front of Bertrand Library, only half of you will have a job.”  This is the most discouraging piece of news that I have ever heard; to make matters worse, I have heard these exact words on three different occasions now throughout my senior year from three different Career Development Center (CDC) employees.

When I first heard this daunting statistic from the CDC last fall, I was not phased.  My plan for years now has been to graduate from Bucknell and immediately attend law school in an east coast city — preferably Boston, New York, Philadelphia or D.C.  Unfortunately, as time has passed during my senior year, it has become more and more apparent that my dreams of attending law school and becoming a lawyer may not be the smartest decision due to the United States’ current economic situation and job market (or lack thereof).  Jobs in the legal field are just as hard to come by now as jobs in every other field, but matters are made even worse with legal jobs because of the huge amount of financial debt with which law students graduate law school.  I can not even imagine how awful it would feel to graduate from law school with thousands and thousands of dollars in debt and potentially not get a job.

While attending law school upon graduation from Bucknell is not completely out of the cards, I have been vigorously pursuing other career options while I wait to hear back form the six law schools who are currently holding my applications.  I, like most other Bucknell seniors, am determined to be among the 50% of the graduating class who are employed on May 20.  I have been applying to online career sites and corporate websites non-stop since the beginning of winter break.  Much more importantly, though, is the networking with past Bucknell alum that I have been taking part in.  I am completely aware that when people apply to jobs online, their resumes and applications get lost in a black hole.  Therefore, I have been doing my best when I send in an application to a company to find Bucknell alum on Linkedin who work at that company (preferably in a similar function/area to what I applied for) and send them a message about handing in my resume and cover letter to the appropriate recruiter at their company.  On almost every occasion, the alum has written back and was more than happy to help.  A few different times, the Bucknellian even stated that the way they got the initial interview at that company was through another Bucknell alum, and they would love to pay it foward to me.  This has proved to be the most beneficial approach to me personally, and it has even resulted in several phone calls with recruiters at various companies as well as two rounds of interviews in New York City.  The network of Bucknell alum is unbelievable.  That is why our parents pay the big bucks… I am learning to take advantage of it in any way that I can!

Then there is the job fair approach.  I have always been skeptical about job fairs.  While I certainly consider myself “well-spoken” and easy to talk to, I am not an in-your-face networker by any means.  Additionally, most of the time when Bucknell has job fairs, I am not interested in the companies that show up or the jobs that they are looking to fill.  I went to the Bucknell job fair in the fieldhouse merely to avoid the guilt I would have felt for not going; I ended up speaking to one company, and was disappointed with the waste of time that it turned out to be.  You can imagine my hesitation, then, when it came time to sign up for the Bucknell Communications and Arts fair in New York City.  I felt a little more optimism about this particular fair because the companies present were represented almost entirely by Bucknell alum, and the only students allowed to attend were Bucknellians.  However, the bad news about that was that all of the students in attendance would be equally well-qualified, well-spoken, well-dressed…. you get the point.  It is hard to stand out in a sea of academically successful and homogenous students who are just as determined to get a job as I am.

Overall, despite my hesitation, the job fair ended up being a success.  The CDC filled a bus up with students to attend the fair; we drove there and back in one day, and the whole thing was free.  During the fair, there were several tables lined up around the outside of the room with signs on them indicating which company was standing next to their designated table.  As a Management major I was more interested in talking to the large companies that were present at the fair to potentially discuss any business or marketing functions that they were looking to fill; many of the companies were too “artsy” or too much about advertising rather than marketing, which is not something that I am personally interested in getting involved in.  I was also nervous because all of my internship experience has been in the legal field (I have been working as a legal intern at a large defense litigation law firm in Philadelphia for the past year, and last semester I interned for the Union County District Attorney’s office).  However, in the end, I ended up with the contact information of several very important and influential (and some less influential and important, but equally helpful) people in various large companies, including Viacom, CBS Interactive, and Turner Broadcasting Systems (TBS).  It is probably true that these people will not remember me personally from our less than five minute conversations.  It is also true that most of the companies were not currently hiring, and told all of us to start looking a lot closer to graduation.  But after speaking with these Buckell alum, handing them my resume, writing them a thank you letter and receiving a response, they are all willing to put my resume and other information into the right hands if I do end up applying to their companies in the future.  This is exactly how jobs are obtained, so I am thrilled about these connections that I have made.  It is not uncommon at all for people to reach out to connections that they have made years before.  My sister was recently contacted by a man she met on a train about an open position at his company.  In addition, it became apparent that my experiences in the legal field are viewed as positive because the skills that one needs as an attorney are entirely applicable to almost any other job function.

As a closing note, after speaking with Jordi about the senior job search, I am becoming more open to the fact that I may not graduate with a job, and this is not that big of a deal.  This does not mean that I will stop being obsessed with job searching constantly; that is who I am.  However, I am realizing that it is not the end of the world.  So what if we have a few months off at home to conduct our job searches?  Won’t that just give us even more time and energy to devote to the cause?  Although the graduation statistic is undoubtedly daunting, we should instead look at it as an encouraging fact.  The senior class is full of bright, talented, determined students… I would like to think that more than 50% of us have these characteristics!  We all need to calm down, take a deep breath, and remember that we are young and have our whole lives ahead of us to work from 8-6 every day.  What is an extra few months?

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9 responses »

  1. Kate says:

    At times, it’s very difficult to not get caught up in the pressures of being employed after graduation. I am only a junior, but I have already felt the pressure since sophomore year. The ultimate goal is to find a “good” internship during the summer before senior year where you will not only gain valuable experience, but have the potential of receiving a job offer at the end of the summer. Bucknell students strive to achieve that ideal scenario, but it obviously does not work out for every person.

    In my opinion, what helps people secure jobs are networking contacts. Sure, good grades look wonderful on your resume, but tens, hundreds, or thousands of college students apply for the same job or internship with almost the same GPA. For that reason, as Kelly said, we all need to take advantage of the Bucknell network. I interned with Verizon last summer, but it all started off with the winter sophomore externship program. Not only did I gain insight into Verizon, but the Bucknell alum forwarded my resume to several of her contacts within Human Resources. Essentially, she went out of her way to get my resume into the hands of the “right” people. It’s those types of connections that will help us gain slight advantages in the application world. For how much our parents are paying, it would be a crime to not seize those networking opportunities.

  2. brookeparker16 says:

    As a fellow senior I am very startled and dismayed to read that 50% of our graduating class is projected to not have jobs. For all of us we have done everything the way we were supposed to and told to. We got good grades in high school, we went to a good college, we interned and the next step is getting a job. I have followed this “guideline” of how to live and I have spent my entire life preparing for the moment when all my hard work was going to be rewarded with a job. Where’s the job? Truth be told, I feel a little cheated. I feel like this is a barter gone bad. I did my job now world do yours. I realize that it’s not the world’s job to find me a job and I cannot expect a job to just be handed to me but I still cannot help feeling like this is unfair. Despite my rant, I do agree with the idea that you have to make the most connections and eventually something will come through. The best lesson that I have learned from this job search experience is that apply everywhere even if it is not your dream job and the worst that can happen is you say “no”.

  3. Sarah says:

    WOW! I am absolutely shocked by that number! I have never really heard many stats about employment right after graduation and have instead only seen the reports that come out after a graduation class has been out of school for a year. Here is the report for the 2010 graduation class: http://www.bucknell.edu/x3099.xml. In this report it says that 9 months out 94% of the class were successfully placed in either employment, grad school, or a combination of traveling and volunteering. This stat is definitely a more optimistic one and is good to hear. I also wonder how the stat of 50% compares to other years and if it were higher in the past? Today I feel like getting a job is all about who you know. I feel that online applications are pretty much a waste of time as a computer program is probably sorting through them picking out key words and deleting the rest.

  4. Scout Berger says:

    There is no doubt that finding a job is an incredibly stressful process. I agree with Brooke that it is very disturbing that we have dedicated four years at Bucknell to try to ultimately find a job and only 50% will be able to; that is utterly alarming. I think that connections are definitely a big part of being employed but I also think there is another factor that is entirely underrated–internships. Yes, there is no doubt that networking and connections have resulted in employment. That being said, I have also come to find that internships play a large part too. When you are drafting your resume, there is nothing worse than staring at the piece of paper in front of you and realizing that you do not have anything to write down. The summer before my sophomore year at Bucknell, I applied to an internship with The Clinton Foundation. They asked for my resume and at the time my experience primarily consisted of working at a coffee shop. Even then I was frustrated and felt unprepared. Now when I sit down in an interview for a job, I am thankful that for the past three summers I have internships and feel like I have something to talk about and something that can make me stand out.

    That being said, there is no doubt that there are students at Bucknell that are being cheated. These are the students that have consistently made dean’s list, been in numerous clubs, and has had a couple of internships. Yet there are those people that still have trouble finding a job even if they are more than qualified.

    My question for the rest of the class is this:

    What do you believe is the most important thing to have in the job search? Why?

  5. Jordi says:

    Does a nose ring help you stand out? Maybe more so at this fair..

  6. Jordi says:

    Wow, I have never had a Senior tell me that my advice to not worry too much and start a job search from a particular place was actually helpful. Usually they think I am nuts. I wish we had MUCH better research on our recent alums. I wonder of the 50% who don’t have a job are going to grad school? Even then, of the 50% who are “jobless,” — as in, OH NO! not 100% succeeding all the time and on track to meet all goals of outward success! — are actually finding relevant, meaningful, rewarding work within 6-12 months of graduation? I also wonder how many take jobs at big firms, especially financial ones, and then end up feeling stuck. I am 100% supportive of people who want to go into finance, but only if it is a good fit. And if they like banking to be boring…

    That one sentence, by the way, was one of the least grammatical I have written.

  7. KCasty says:

    I suppose it would make me stand out, but I remove the nose ring for all work and career related situations. 😉

  8. hannahglos says:

    I can understand the situation you are in with deciding this past year not to go to law school, and then having a mild panic attack when you realize that you might graduate from Bucknell unemployed. I have a similar story in that for my first three years here, I was pursuing a career in finance and wanted to work on the sales and trading floor of an investment bank. Last summer, I had an internship doing just that and was getting ready to apply for jobs in that industry when I returned to campus. Low and behold, about four weeks into first semester senior year, I had a change of heart and decided that I no longer wanted to work on Wall Street. Now, I am faced with the hardships that we all face with trying to find a job (and I still partially hate myself every day because I know if I was still going into finance, I would most likely be employed right now), and I am even more frustrated because what I want to do will not start hiring until you are a graduate. I, like you, attended the Communications and Arts Career Fair in New York last week, and while I had great feedback and encouragement, I still know that I realistically don’t have a shot at getting a job until April, May, or after I graduate. It is an extremely scary thought that I might graduate unemployed, but so many of us are all in the same boat that at least we’re all in it together.

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