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Last modified: Monday, May 5, 2003

IU graduates finding opportunities in "lackluster" job market

Many companies delay hiring decisions until spring

In coming weeks, more than 1 million college students nationally, including those at Indiana University, will receive their degrees in commencement ceremonies. Placement officers at IU report that many of their students are finding good opportunities in a lackluster economy.

This is not to say that IU students aren't facing challenges in an economy that has lost 2.6 million jobs over the last two years. However, the number of corporate recruiters visiting the IU Bloomington campus -- particularly in the last couple of months -- has begun to return to previous levels. Also, IU has aggressively sought out ways to partner with other Big Ten and major research universities to help students connect with top employers, including those in Indiana.

This academic year, 321 companies -- or 13 percent more than last academic year -- recruited undergraduates through the Kelley School of Business' placement office. The opportunities for MBA graduates also improved as 75 employers conducted campus interviews for full-time, MBA employment opportunities. This represented a 4 percent increase over last year's total.

Reports indicate that IU Bloomington and its students in some fields may be doing a little better than their peers nationally. The most recent survey of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) painted a gloomy picture for 2003 graduates. Nearly three-quarters of responding schools noted having fewer employers on campus and 78 percent saw employers interviewing fewer candidates.

In August 2002, employers told NACE they expected to cut back on college recruitment and hires by 3.6 percent this year.

Susie Clarke, director of undergraduate career services in IU's Kelley School of Business, said, "Even though we expected a very soft market, I felt like the relationships here carried us and allowed us to show an increase in on-campus recruiting activities and opportunities for our students."

"Over the past two years, most ranked MBA programs have experienced a sharp decline in recruiting activities by investment banking and investment management firms. Consulting opportunities have been limited in comparison to more robust times," said Dick McCracken, director of graduate career services in the Kelley School.

"With employers taking initiatives to curtail recruiting costs, we are finding that most employers are cutting back, reducing the number of core recruiting schools. Employers are also making a greater effort to target schools within a more local geographic region. We are encouraged by our increased employer numbers," he added.

At the Arts and Sciences Placement Office, IU appears to be holding steady in its efforts to help students from the College of Arts and Sciences, said Sloane Boyd, the office's interim director. "Last year was a very difficult year," she said. "It remains lackluster."

More than 4,200 IU students were connected this year by her office to 575 employers through on-campus recruiting and career fairs. Job and interview listings were offered by another 320 companies.

One encouraging sign this spring has been an increase in the number of corporate recruiters on campus, Clarke said. "We're also seeing more of what I call, 'just-in-time hiring,'" she said. "Typically, companies come here just in the fall to do full-time hiring. This year, we not only had an increase, but we had an increase in companies coming for full-time hires in the spring.

"I don't have data on this, but I've been hearing that offers also were coming later," she said. Earlier in the year, "We had questions from students who asked us, 'they were here a long time ago, why haven't I heard anything?' Then I started hearing that process was being drawn out a bit longer."

Preliminary initial salary statistics for graduating IU seniors show a slight increase from last year. According to NACE, business majors have fared better in starting salaries this year than other majors and the average salary offer nationally stands at $36,515 -- 3.7 percent higher than the average offer of $35,209 last year at this time.

Kelley School undergraduate students' starting salaries were above the national average last year, and are 12 percent higher than the national average this year.

Preliminary data at this point suggests that Kelley graduates in accounting are continuing to attract some of the highest average salaries, being offered on average $44,250 ($41,360 is national average). Other average starting salaries in business include $43,260 for information systems graduates, $43,260 for finance majors, $38,000 for marketing grads and $35,725 for those with management concentrations. Similar data are not available for IU liberal arts majors.

McCracken said more than 60 percent of students in this year's graduating MBA class have received job offers, slightly more than last year. However, he said, "In the next few days, the numbers for this year should slightly increase, as students are still actively interviewing and have strong leads."

About 270 MBA students will receive their degrees later this week. IU Bloomington will award 6,742 degrees overall.

All the placement directors said they are continuing efforts to place IU graduates with firms in the state of Indiana. Boyd and Clarke said consortiums that IU has with other schools in Indiana and the Midwest are key to this effort. For example, IU has been exploring with Purdue, Notre Dame and Rose-Hulman universities how to reach out to Indiana companies not located in Indianapolis and other large urban areas. Other consortium efforts have involved other Big Ten schools and the University of Chicago.

Clarke said another effective strategy available to IU students was an "eFair" this spring. This is a tool that allows companies to put job postings on IU's Web-based system. "What we did was really market this opportunity and 60 companies posted opportunities with us right after spring break," she said. "Over 2,100 resume referrals were made and some additional companies then came to campus to interview. Other companies invited students to interview on site."

Boyd said it's important to understand that students now in the job market have been hit hard by the events of Sept. 11, 2001 and the recent Iraq war -- not only because of the economy, but also psychologically. She said they're not trying to hold off entering adulthood, but instead lack confidence about the future.

"This group of young adults have seen and experienced some of the most devastating and overwhelming world events," she said. "During the week that IU had spring break, the war began and students were glued to television sets while they were supposed to be having the time of their lives. It affects their outlook towards looking for a job and their future."