Job search may often be wearisome, but career placement centers help

College Press Service

CHICAGO -- For some graduating seniors, the job search is fairly painless.

Take, for instance, Chris Woolford, a senior economics major at the University of Chicago, who had four job offers to choose from this spring -- one from a small merchant bank in Chicago, two from large investment banks in New York and even one from Europe.

Woolford, who will graduate near the top of his class, credits much of his success to an early start in the job-search process. Last fall, he got a stack of rsums together and began sending them out to investment banks and consulting firms around the nation.

Then, working through UC's career services office, he began lining up on-campus interviews with potential employers. By January, he had scheduled as many as 20 interviews a week.

"It was a very tiring process, just going through all the thank-you letters," he recalls.

In the end, Woolford accepted the job offer with the merchant back in Chicago and will be making about $35,000 a year when he starts work in August.

For other graduating seniors, the job search is more frustrating. Paula Simon, a nursing major at Viterbo College in LaCrosse, Wis., sent her rsum out to hospitals in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington.

So far, there have been no job offers for Simon. In fact, there have been no interviews, either -- until now. At long last, she has an interview in April with an Albuquerque, N.M., hospital.

"I kind of, like, begged for it," she said.

"Frustrating, tiring, depressing." As graduation looms, these are the words many nervous seniors are using to describe their job search.

But the outlook for graduating seniors -- and there's 1.2 million in the class of 1996 -- is optimistic.

New college graduates can look forward to a friendlier job market coupled with significant increases in starting salaries, according to a new survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a group that tracks the job-search process.

Overall, 53 percent of 359 career services offices surveyed said they expect to see increased recruiting on their campuses this spring. Recruiting, which includes the number of on-campus employer visits, interviews and job postings, is up compared with last year, the survey found.

Computer science majors continue to top the list of graduates in high demand, the survey revealed. These grads can expect to receive a 2.5 percent higher starting salary this year -- roughly $34,565.

The employers seeking out "techies" are software development companies, consulting firms, and computer and business equipment manufacturers.

Engineering grads are also in demand this year as a result of an increase in manufacturing opportunities.

Electrical, computer, mechanical and industrial engineers can look forward to a raise in starting salaries, to about $37,000, the survey said.

Unfortunately, the students who endeavor in humanities and social sciences might not fare as well, the survey found.

English grads can expect an average starting salary of about $22,000, which is 1.6 percent lower than last year's salary. Starting salaries are also down 7.5 percent for sociology grads, to about $20,041.

Although the job market has still not caught up to the hiring levels experienced by 1989 grads, employment opportunities for new grads have risen since the economic recession of the early 1990s, according to an annual survey of recruiting trends by Michigan State University.

The 1995 survey predicted that the most promising fields for the class of 1996 would not only be computer science and engineering, but also business (such as marketing and sales), health and science.

So far, the forecast for graduating seniors seems to be right on target, said Vemicka Tyson, director of Career Services and Placement at Michigan State. "It seems to be a pretty good year," she said.

For computer science majors, "the demand exceeds the supply," she said. "Companies are interested in management information systems majors, materials and logistics students, and chemical engineers. There has been more interest in the liberal-arts major. That's been a hopeful sign."

When it comes to the job-search process, Tyson's office advises students to start early.

"Students in their freshman and sophomore year (should start) thinking about their career paths," she said. "Internships and cooperative work experiences are very important. The need for computer skills is also very important, regardless of the academic discipline."

Tim Putzier, director of Career Advising and Planning Services at the University of Wisconsin-Madison gives the same advice.

"By the end of your sophomore year, you should be looking for internships, ideally," he said.

His office, which primarily handles the liberal-arts students graduating from UW's College of Letters and Science, has noticed an increase in campus recruiting compared with other years.

"It's definitely up in the number of companies," he said. "It's not a drastic leap, but it's definitely climbing."

And similar to the national trend, UW's computer science students are fielding more job offers than their peers who dabble in literature and other liberal arts courses.

For computer science majors, Putzier said, "If you can talk, you've got a job."

Another trend Putzier has noticed is an extended recruiting period for employers.

"Usually, it's all wrapped up by mid-March," he said, adding that employers still are arranging campus visits in April. "That's a good thing for the students."

The competition is tough, though. One major retailer recently came to the UW campus with less than 10 positions available for more than 400 applicants from various colleges. Putzier said, "We have students getting offers, but it's certainly very competitive. It's a better year than others -- 1994, 1995, 1996 have all been climbing. It's slowly but surely getting on a roll."

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