BOSTON (Reuters) - Facing the worst job market in a generation, students graduating from America’s universities say they are willing to do just about anything for work.
Some are taking unpaid internships, publishing blogs to document their troubles, applying to nonprofit organizations instead of more lucrative private-sector jobs or even moving back with their parents.
Mike Rubino, who studied public relations at Boston University, had never considered a career as a teacher. But as the end of his final year of college neared with the U.S. economy in a tailspin, he had a change of heart.
After watching his classmates scramble for the same limited pool of jobs, Rubino sent his resume to Teach for America, a nonprofit AmeriCorps program that enlists graduates to teach in low-income rural and urban public schools for two years.
He got the job a month before graduation.
“I realized how lucky I was that I had a guaranteed two-year salary,” he said.
Only 43 percent of employers in a survey by online job website CareerBuilder.com intended to hire new college graduates this year, down from 56 percent in 2008 and 79 percent in 2007. The site surveyed about 2,500 hiring managers and human resource officials from February 20 to March 11.
The survey also showed that one in five employers plan to reduce starting salaries for college graduates from what they were last year.
“A lot of students think, ‘I may not get the job I want right now so I might as well do this and put that other job on hold,’” said Dick Leger, director of Boston University’s career services office.
Rubino is not alone. More than 35,000 people applied to Teach for America jobs this year, up 42 percent from last year, said Teach for America spokeswoman Kerci Marcello Stroud. Even graduates from America’s most elite schools applied.
Eleven percent of all seniors at Ivy League schools such as Harvard University and Yale applied to the program.
Nationally, less than 20 percent of graduating college seniors who applied for a job this year have one, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. That’s down more than 30 percent from two years ago when more than half of those who applied for a job had one by the time of graduation.
University of Missouri journalism graduate Carrie Bien has taken an innovative approach to youthful joblessness by documenting the trials of finding work on a blog, “The Final 30 days,” that illustrates a big shift in expectations among many graduating American students.
“I have now come to terms with the fact that right out of college, no matter how hard I worked in undergrad, I am not going to land my dream job,” she wrote in one entry.
The blog gives her a platform, however, to demonstrate writing skills to prospective employers in her chosen field — corporate communications and public relations.
“Not only can I submit a writing sample but I can submit this blog for them to check out that’s live and updated regularly,” she said in an interview.
The shrinking pool of jobs has also made internships, even unpaid, more attractive, giving new graduates a chance to make contacts that could lead to jobs when the economy improves, said Jennifer Grasz, who conducts CareerBuilder’s job survey.
“It gives them a foot in the door, helps them network and lets them see if there is an opportunity to work on a more permanent basis within that organization,” she said.
If past downturns are a guide, the recession could inflict long-term harm to budding careers, according to research by Lisa Kahn at Yale University who has studied the effects of recessions on wages and job prospects for graduating students.
For each percentage-point rise in the unemployment rate, those who graduated in the early 1980s U.S. recession earned 7 percent to 8 percent less in their first year out than comparable workers who graduated when the economy was better.
And the recession-era graduates earned 4 percent to 5 percent less by their 12th year out of college, and 2 percent less by their 18th year out.
“Our whole lives our parents and everyone around us said ‘shoot for the moon’, you know, all those cliche things,” said Bien, the blogger. “You’re always told you can be anything you want to be.”
“The truth is we still can, but I think we expect to have it right away, we don’t necessarily expect to do the leg work at the beginning.”
Additional reporting by Jason Szep; Editing by Cynthia Osterman