Despite recession, patient college grads finding work

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Adele Gabriel knew when she graduated from BYU with a degree in theater in August 2010 that she wanted to move back to Florida and work at Disneyworld. But after auditioning, she was told there were no open positions and was put on a waiting list.

“I was just patiently waiting until I got to do what I wanted to do,” she said. “I did some substitute teaching. It wasn’t a difficult job but I didn’t want to go into teaching.”

Gabriel’s situation is not unique among college graduates trying to find work in a difficult job market. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, no new jobs were created in August (the most current data available), leaving the nation’s job market at a stagnant 9.1 percent unemployment rate. However, for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, the unemployment rate currently rests at 4.2 percent, meaning the more educated are faring much better during this recession than the rest of the population.

The numbers don’t, however, specify what sort of jobs college graduates are getting, and for recent graduates just entering the market, like Gabriel, it means patiently waiting for opportunities to become available, building up their skills in the meantime.

Gabriel said while she waited for something to open up at Disney, she worked on improving her resume by getting an internship with a local theater company.

“I was feeling pretty down about my employment situation, but with my internship and working with other people it was good for me to recognize strengths I had and build new skills,” she said. She also attended a workshop with LDS employment services.

“They go over your resume and practice interviewing skills and I thought it was very helpful,” Gabriel said. After six months of waiting, Disney called her back and offered her a job.

Some students choose to stay at their current jobs, which may not be what they have a passion for, until they can build their careers in the field they want to be in. Andrew Apsley already had a steady job of four years with Hewlett Packard when he graduated with a degree in English in August, and continues to work there as he earns his MFA at BYU and works at reaching his ultimate goal of being a full-time novelist.

“It’s something I took mostly because I needed steady income when we were having our first baby, and it’s just turned into a career, even though it’s not something I really want to do for the rest of my life,” Apsley said. “I plan to start [writing] part time and maintain my current career until I can turn writing into something I can live off of.”

Some students find that networking is key to getting jobs in the field they want to work in. Tasha Antoniak, who graduated in recreational management and youth leadership in August 2009, said she found that to be true during her job hunt. She took on a job as a nanny after she completed her internship while she searched for a job in her field.

“I was on every career builder website out there,” Antoniak said. “I was just trying to make any connections that I could. The economy was cutthroat—who you knew was most important. Networking can be a lot more important than field experience.”

She said during her time working as a nanny she was getting ready to take her boards to get certified and licensed as a recreational therapist.

Antoniak was hired at the Center for Change in Orem, a treatment center for women with eating disorders. Though she didn’t want to work in mental health rehabilitation, or live in Utah again, she said her willingness to be flexible in what she wanted allowed her to end up where she felt she needed to be. Antoniak was quickly promoted five months after she was hired to the director of rec therapy programs.

Since her graduation, Antoniak has come back to BYU to speak to students who are studying recreational management.

“I always tell the students to be flexible,” she said. “I was a snob and said, ‘I’m not doing psychological therapy’; I wanted to do more physical therapy. It’s really just being flexible, being willing. You cannot just look around and say, ‘Hello, I’m a college grad, where’s my job?’”

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