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Williamsport graduate one of many struggling to find job after college

May 30, 2009|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU

When Laura Scuffins graduated from Roanoke College in Virginia on May 2, her résumé reflected her long list of job experience and college honors.

But after several months, the Washington County native lacked the one achievement she wants the most -- a job in her career field.

"I thought when I entered my senior year, I really thought, come April or May, I would have a job," said Scuffins, 22. "When May rolled around and I had nothing, I remember I just started to panic. Like, what was I going to do after graduation? I have this great degree I've worked so hard for, and I have nothing to show for it."

Meet the economy's newest crop of victims -- the class of 2009, the thousands of students graduating now from colleges across America.

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Employers expect to hire 22 percent fewer new grads now than they hired from the class of 2008, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

"Not surprisingly, the anticipated drop-off in hiring was prompted by the deteriorating economic situation," NACE said in a press release. The organization, based in Bethlehem, Pa., tracks the jobs market for new graduates.

It's the first time hiring projections for new college graduates have dropped since the market was shaken by the dot.com bust and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, NACE said. Hiring fell 36 percent for the class of 2002, before steadying a year later and bouncing back in 2004, it said.

The current economy is causing all kinds of job trouble for this year's graduates.

With the nation's unemployment rate at 8.9 percent, new graduates are competing for jobs with those who have been laid off and who have the work experience many of them lack.

Then, there's the effect of the financial nest egg worries you hear older workers talking about.

Some teachers and others who might have been planning to retire this year are holding off, hoping "one more year" will help to rebuild their retirement investments after the damage Wall Street has done.

In search of work

When Scuffins graduated from Williamsport High School in 2005, she already had earned high honors in academics and sports.

A member of the National Honor Society and the German Honor Society, Scuffins also played three sports. She played varsity basketball for two years, varsity soccer for three years and, as a member of the 4-by-400-meter relay team, won the state championship in track at least twice.

At Roanoke College in Salem, Va., she was on the track team for three years.

By the time she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in English, she was on the Dean's List of Distinguished Students, had won an endowment prize in journalism two years in a row and had been in three honor societies, serving as president of one of them.

Her résumé notes she had been the editor-in-chief of her college newspaper, taken photos for a community newspaper, and worked as an intern in public relations at the college and as an intern in news at NBC25 in Hagerstown.

Still, all that hasn't been enough to land either of the jobs she really wanted after college.

She had hoped to become a news reporter, but mostly gave up that dream about a year ago after noticing how severely the economy has been hurting many newspapers.

"That's something I would really enjoy, but, because they're laying people off and newspapers are shutting down, I'm leaning more toward (a job in) public relations," Scuffins said. "I would really love to do public work for a nonprofit somewhere, raising awareness about a community issue."

"At least with public relations, they always need people," she said.

So, with lots of credentials, Scuffins began her job search in January. She posted her résumé online with The Washington Post and Monster.com, and began combing job boards.

"I also used my contacts at the public relations office at the school, talked to my faculty adviser and just ... anyone I thought would have any contacts for me," she said.

"They all had the same response. And that was, 'No, there's nothing,'" she said. "It was just really sad."

Undaunted, she applied for jobs with 100 companies online.

"Yes, 100," she said. "And it's not like I'm applying for jobs that I'm not qualified for. Not ones that need five years' experience or three years' experience because I know my application would just be thrown in the trash can. I'm only applying for the basic entry-level jobs I have experience for.

After all that, she received only two responses. One was for a writing position with a Connecticut technology company that said it would send her a writing test, but didn't -- not even after she asked twice. The other was for a job that, it turned out, "had absolutely nothing to do with what I wanted," Scuffins said.

The problem is competition is stiff for available jobs.

Everyone else also is applying, she said, "and there's not enough jobs for all the people that are applying."

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