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Work in Progress
Seniors scramble to find employment in a downturn
By Crystal Ward Kent '78

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The country was losing about half a million jobs a month this spring, which made it a scary time to be a college senior looking for work.

Whitney Hunter '09, a biochemistry major who was hoping to find a position in genetic research, admits she's "open to anything." A week after she applied for several positions at one company, she says, "they initiated a hiring freeze."

Social work major Elizabeth Braconi '09 reports that she job-hunted for eight months before landing a position with a family counseling team. "I was discouraged for a while," she recalls. "I kept running into hiring freezes; I took a job as a nanny to generate income. But I kept on networking, and that did the trick."

The key to job hunting in a tough market, says Nancy Hoff, a counselor at UNH's Career Center, is to be proactive and not to rely on Internet job-search engines such as Monster.com. Buff up the resume, network and interview, she says.

While the number of companies attending university career fairs last year held steady at about 200, the number of students who turned out increased: the spring event, for example, drew 1,154, a record. (See correction footnote *)

The number of recruiters who came to campus dipped, from an average of about 90 to 100 per year to 75. "The jobs are there," says Hoff, "but the students may have to dig a little deeper to find them." Other job-search assistance offered to students (and alumni) includes some 800 online career mentors, most of whom are UNH alums.

Career advisor Louise Ewing noticed a shift this year. "It used to be that roughly a third entered the job market, a third went on to graduate school, and a third went into service work, took a year to travel or pursued a similar adventure," she says. "But this year, fewer are pursuing advanced degrees, and we are seeing an increase in those considering service work."

Nationwide, there has been a 27 percent increase in the number of students applying for CityYear, says Marianne Fortescue '94 of the Office of Community Service, adding that UNH has seen a similar increase. AmeriCorps had filled all of its New Hampshire program slots by early April, she adds.

Among UNH students who pursued employment, David Gallant '09 was an example of how to push the high-tech envelope. Gallant started a blog to "document my travels to adulthood," and then joined Twitter. "I quickly became Twitter friends with many of Boston's SEO/Web 2.0 folks in order to follow new trends," he says. "I saw a 'retweet' about a job opening and I began to investigate. Bingo!" Translation? He got a job.

* Editor's note: After this article appeared, UNH Magazine was informed by Judy Spiller, associate provost for academic achievement and support, that "Despite the declining economy, this past year we had high employer participation in our fairs. The capacity for the Whittemore Center was 135 and we had 135 employers. The spring fair in the Granite State Room had a capacity of 85 and we had 85 companies. We could have had more at both of those events. College graduate hiring is down but college graduates are still being hired as demonstrated by our robust fair numbers." Return to UNH Magazine Campus Currents