Four years ago, I never would have imagined my senior year at Notre Dame quite like this. There I was, fresh out of high school and ready to take on the world. I just knew that, with a lot of hard work and dedication, I would definitely have a job already waiting for me after finishing college. Yet today, as I near graduation, a reality called “the recession” has intruded on my youthful optimism.
Recently, hundreds of my fellow seniors and I, all dressed in our finest black clothes, waited for others to give us an idea of future job possibilities. All of the words on this page could not describe the looks of anxiety on the students’ faces that dreary afternoon in January. There was definitely something different about this year’s Winter Career Fair.
After going down each and every aisle of the annual event, which is sponsored by Notre Dame’s Career Center, many of the students, including myself, stepped away from the individual booths with the same answers from potential employers: “We are not currently looking to fill full-time positions” or “Maybe you should try again next year.” I was not surprised when many of these companies were forced to turn away so many students.
During the fair, the director of the Career Center, Lee Svete, told me that this year’s event was definitely affected by the current condition of the economy. Last year 168 companies were represented at the fair. This year the number dropped to 133. “We tried to prepare for the recession,” Svete said, “but we didn’t think it would be this bad.” Me neither.
The effects of the recession had been surrounding me for months, but I never gave it much thought until my experience with the career fair. Svete told me only 12 percent of last year’s graduates were still looking for jobs by May. Unfortunately, this year will be somewhat different for my class. Although the actual figures are still unknown, Svete said the percentage of graduating seniors still looking for jobs within the next few months could be as high as 30 percent. That was when it really hit home for me.
Although I am taking the situation pretty hard, this is apparently not the first time Notre Dame seniors have been affected by an economic crisis. Svete said the last recession took place shortly after 9/11 in 2001. “We went from 120 companies to 42 overnight,” he told me. After hearing that, I suppose this seemingly never-ending job search could be a lot worse.
Fortunately, Svete still had a trace of good news for me and my classmates. He said Notre Dame graduates continue to be some of the most versatile in the nation, which would never hurt any of us in such a competitive job market. He also told me that many of us are considering the idea of taking on voluntary service jobs or such temporary, skill-building employment as internships and fellowships.
So what, I asked him, is the solution to getting through these tough times? According to Svete, patience is key. “I really believe we need to weather the storm, and it’s going to take a little longer,” he said.
After a lot of prayer and those words of inspiration from Mr. Svete, I will continue searching for jobs with the help of the Career Center. In June, I will begin a fellowship with the Indianapolis Star, but that will only last until the end of the summer. Although this great opportunity will allow me to do what I love most, journalism, I will still be in the same position I am in today: jobless. Despite these rocky times, I will network with alumni clubs all over the nation and continue building my resume. I am sure that, in the end, it will all work out.
Amber Travis is the spring 2009 intern at Notre Dame Magazine.
Photo by Matt Cashore.