Stormy Job Market Ahead for New Grads

With news of layoffs and rescinded job offers everywhere, few envy the job market May's graduating class will be stepping into.     

Bad job market omens are everywhere: Advanced Micro Devices announced April 7 that it was slashing 10 percent of its work force, Dell is in the process of laying off at least 8,500 employees and the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that the unemployment rate rose from 4.8 to 5.1 percent in March.

On April 5, news leaked that JP Morgan Chase & Co. had rescinded nearly half of the job and internship offers Bear Stearns had made earlier in 2008, as part of JP Morgan Chase's plans to acquire the foundering Wall Street investment firm. But while it is little surprise that buyouts lead to layoffs-especially in overlapping business areas, as where JP Morgan Chase has chosen not to honor offers-that is little consolation for students graduating from college this May and trying to find a job in a tumultuous economic climate.

According to some career experts, students graduating that don't already have a job lined up might be in trouble, partly because they'll be getting a late start.

"The job market is completely cyclical. If you want a job for June or July, you should start in March or April at the latest. But you'll increase your chances if you started making contacts over your winter break," Rich Milgram, CEO of, a recruiting Web site, told eWEEK.

Other difficulties in landing a job after graduation could stem from generational or motivational issues.

"The really motivated people won't have problems, but the challenge in the millennial generation is that there are a lot out there that didn't spend time on internships, didn't get work experience before graduation or are more lackluster in their desire to work. They're going to have a lot of trouble entering the work force," Milgram said.

Worsening students' chances is an economy teetering on the brink of a recession-something that may affect wallets as well as job opportunities.

"I would expect to see the same salaries as those who graduated last year; they will not have been adjusted for inflation," Milgram said.

Career blogger Penelope Trunk takes a different view of the economic slowdown, arguing that a recession is not likely to affect the job market because of a marketwide shortage of people to fill retiring workers' shoes.

"The health of today's job market is not so much a function of economic indicators as it is a function of demographic trends. There is a huge shortage of employees. Baby Boomers are retiring and Generation X and Y are less able to replace the Baby Boomers than had been anticipated," Trunk wrote.

Unless the recession is particularly prolonged or damaging, Trunk said, it is not likely to change this bright outlook. Nevertheless, even a relatively stable job market can only take a graduate so far.

"No matter how old you are, you have to be able to build a network. At the college level, this may be getting to know your parents' friends in industries that interest you, or that you can learn from. You may have a good network of friends at college, but they're as inexperienced as you are. Work on your professional network now," Milgram said.