Students meet life after college

Adrienne Brown has sent out more than 40 resumes and been on four job interviews recently. But if she doesn't land a job by the time she graduates from Michigan State University next month, she'll be working as an office assistant at a campus dorm.

Brown, 22, is one of thousands of college seniors searching for jobs in a tough labor market. Although hiring of college graduates with bachelor's degrees is expected to increase overall between 3 and 8 percent, it is declining in some fields, according to a study released Nov. 20 by MSU.

The 33rd annual survey of 450 employers by MSU's Collegiate Employment Research Institute found that while the job market is improving in areas such as biological and physical sciences, computer science graduates will find few openings.

Among the study's findings:

Employers with hiring plans will create an approximately 9-percent expansion in jobs.

Graduates are more likely to find jobs in retail, construction, finance, health and hospitality and less likely to find spots in manufacturing, transportation, professional services and information services.

Internships and co-op jobs are the preferred path to a job.

Employers want candidates who communicate well and are willing to learn new skills.

Starting salaries are increasing only 1-2 percent and decreasing in some fields compared to last year.

Brown, who majored in communications at MSU, is amazed at the competition.

"There aren't as many openings now," said Brown, who lives in East Lansing and works part time at MSU's office of university relations and as an office assistant at the Case-Wonders residence hall on campus.

"I'm competing with people who speak three languages and have had more internships or have been in the job market for five or six years. I'll just keep trying until I find a job."

Phil Gardner, director of the research institute and author of the study, said given the poor labor market of the last three years for college grads, the 3-8 percent hiring increase is good news.

"But we have engineers working at Home Depot making half of what they expected," Gardner said. "Seniors need to do some soul-searching about what makes them unique and how they can match up with the companies seeking those talents."

Andrew Patterson, who will graduate from MSU next month with a bachelor's degree in marketing, is confident he'll find a job soon. On Thursday, he interviewed with World Kitchen Inc., a Chicago-based distributor of kitchenware. The company expects to hire 30 new field sales managers nationwide by June, according to Mike James, a company recruiter who interviewed Patterson. World Kitchen has one opening in the Detroit area.

The entry-level jobs will pay an annual salary in the mid-$30,000 range, he said.

Patterson has sent out about 10 resumes.

"I'm confident I'll get something," said Patterson, 25, from Chelsea. "In interviews everyone has liked me so far."

While he searches, Patterson will continue to work as a part-time loan officer for a Jackson mortgage company.

Jennifer Mussman, a senior at the University of Michigan, is participating in a unique program through U-M's Career Center. She is one of five U-M students chronicling their job search on a reality television-style Web site. The candidates keep a diary of their job search on the site, which offers career tips from recruiters and other job information.

Mussman, who graduates in the spring with a bachelor's degree in communications, has sent out about 25 resumes and been on seven interviews in her quest for a job in retail or advertising.

"It's pretty competitive," said Mussman, 21, from Grand Rapids. "When you go to a company presentation you see 50 to 100 people and there are only 10 jobs available. I'm hoping to find a job by the second semester, but that's not realistic.

"Plan B is to move back home, work as a waitress and keep searching for a job but I hope it doesn't come to that"

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