The job market or grad school? UI counselors analyze options

By Andrew Maloney

Despite the recession and a relatively bleak job market, there may be hope for students seeking a position in their preferred occupation.

“In one sense we are seeing students who come in and say, ‘Are the jobs out there? Is it even worth it to look?'” said Damian Lay, assistant director of the University’s Career Center. “And our answer to that is, of course, ‘Jobs are always out there.'”

Lay said the Career Center helps students by providing job search strategies, sponsoring career workshops and offering advice about resumes and interviews. He added that he advises job candidates to network by talking to as many professionals in their desired field as possible.

“Whether it’s people who are hiring or just even acquaintances of your parents, just try and get to know people and talk to people who are in the field that you’re interested in,” Lay said. “Networking is still one of the best ways to get a job.”

But while students can benefit from taking a well-rounded approach in their job search, experts say the economic forecast is still not encouraging.

“The employment picture is almost certainly going to worsen,” said Anne Villamil, professor of economics. “The hope is that (the unemployment rate) won’t reach double figures, but it certainly will rise.”

Even once other components of the economy begin to show signs of life, Villamil said the job market might still remain grounded.

“It’s extremely difficult to predict turning points,” Villamil said. “But employment tends to lag the business cycle. Even after GDP starts improving, unemployment will continue to rise for a while. That’s a typical pattern in recessions.”

For undergraduates, applying to a graduate program is an alternative to facing the job market. Paul Pless, assistant dean of admissions for the College of Law, said a surge in the number of individuals who took December’s LSAT may indicate that more students are taking that route.

“It was the largest December count since 1989,” said Pless. “I think it’s mostly people who have been out of school for a year or two and are looking for a place to kind of stay for a while and sit out the recession.”

However, Lay said students probably don’t want to pursue an advanced degree simply because the economy is unsteady.

“Unless a student has already thought about a particular area, and they are really interested in it,” Lay said, “we wouldn’t advise them to go to grad school just because the job market is bad.”

Instead, he has some other advice.

“You might have to put in a lot more work in terms of looking for a job, or you might have to be flexible in terms of your first choice,” Lay said. “But our message to the students is, ‘Don’t give up. Keep looking.'”

Yet, it wouldn’t surprise Pless if there was another surge in the number of those looking to stay in school by taking the LSAT, he said.

“We saw nationally there was an uptick in December,” Pless said. “And I think next year we’ll see a bigger one.”