Center Amps Up Efforts As Grads Face Tough Job Market
By Christine Neff
Jim McAtee, interim director of the ECU Career Center, has a message for graduates looking for employment in today’s daunting economy: “You can be successful in this market,” he said. “You just have to plan for it.”
Strategic planning in the job search has become more important than ever, as students look for work at a time when job openings have decreased and unemployment rates have risen, McAtee said.
“What students are starting to realize is that their competition is no longer a person sitting next to them in class, or a person graduating from another college. Their competition, in some cases, is going to be people who have 5 to 10 years experience on them,” McAtee said.
It’s not an ideal situation for new graduates, but McAtee maintains that, with the right preparation, ECU students can be successful. “Are they going to get the job they always dreamed of right out of college? Maybe not. Maybe they need to cast a wider net. But the goal is to get the experience, and move into a better position when the economy turns around,” he said.
The Career Center can play an important role in helping students land that all-important first job. A component of the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, the Center helps students and alumni throughout their career search. Staff organize career fairs, host one-on-one coaching sessions with students, provide mock interview training through the HIRED program, maintain an online job bank and other resources.
Last academic year, the Career Center served 15,284 students. Six months after graduation, a survey of graduates showed that 86.7 percent of survey participants had gained employment.
The economy has changed the way the Career Center has done business in recent months. “The questions have definitely changed,” McAtee said. “I used to hear, ‘How should I write my resume?’ Now I’m getting questions like, ‘How am I going to be competitive in this job market when I just saw my parent get laid off?’”
McAtee and his staff have been providing encouragement for students seeking employment during these tough times. They guide students to pockets of the economy that continue to hire, including government agencies, technology and healthcare, and stress the importance of soft skills, such as work ethic and communication.
“The bottom line is that we want to let our students know that we are here to help them, that they need not be discouraged and that we will do whatever we can to make a good situation out of a really tight economic situation,” McAtee said.
Though he recommends students start the process early in their academic career, McAtee said it’s not too late for Spring 2009 graduates to seek help.
Students can schedule an appointment with a career coach by calling 328-6050.