The University Record, February 4, 2002

Recession slows job prospects

By Emily Hebert
Record Intern

In recent months, the “bad” economy has become the new, trendy way to start a conversation. Talking about which stock took the greatest fall and being able to quote predicted and actual earnings per share is definitely one way to impress peers. But moving away from numbers and knowing exactly how America’s economic struggle affects individuals is a more complex issue. U-M undergraduate students in all concentrations have been affected by the downturn in the economy.

Cynthia Redwine, director of the Engineering Career Resource Center, says employers’ needs have decreased since last fall’s recruiting season. “There are now reduced numbers of new employees needed,” says Redwine. “Whereas last year an employer may have needed to fill 15 positions, now they may only need to fill five.”

Current hardships of the “Big Three” automotive companies, Ford Motor Company, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler, pose the question of whether certain majors, such as Mechanical Engineering, have suffered more than others. But Redwine states, “Across the board, all majors are receiving less opportunities than in the previous year.”

The tighter job market has led some students to consider other options. Deepak Gupta graduated from the University in December with a degree in computer engineering and is presently enrolled in a master’s program at the University. “Now that the economy is unstable, I thought that an advanced degree would be helpful,” says Gupta.

Kelly Schwind, a graduating LS&A senior dual majoring in psychology and communication studies, says that the unfavorable economy has affected her career plans as well. Schwind feels fortunate to have secured a job next year as a marketing coordinator for an Ann Arbor-based publishing company, but admits that the current economic situation still played a role. “There was more pressure on whether or not to accept the job offer,” says Schwind. “I felt as though I should take whatever I could get.”

Andreea Costea, organizational studies major graduating in May, also is feeling the impact. Costea has been job hunting since September and is interested in pursuing a career in either investment banking or marketing. She has had nine unsuccessful interviews, several of which were second-round interviews. Still actively searching, Costea echoes Schwind’s sentiments. “I’m looking for a job,” says Costea. “Not the ‘ideal’ job.” Although she says she will not be particular when it comes to location, Costea still feels she has a right to bargain. “If it’s not the salary I think I deserve, than I am going to ask for one that’s higher,” asserts Costea. “I’ve gone to the University of Michigan for a reason, and my GPA and qualifications are better than those of other candidates.

Though LS&A students are having more difficulty finding jobs this year, assistant director of career planning and placement, Lynne Sebille-White, believes that opportunities still exist. “Our economic status is different this year than last year, but some employers have been less affected than others,” says Sebille-White. She says, while the number of advertising and consulting firms hiring is down, employers in pharmaceutical industries, health care, government, mortgage/lending and education are still relatively active.

Al Cotrone, director of the Business School’s Office of Career Development, agrees with Sebille-White that students are facing greater adversity in their job searches this year. But, like Sebille-White, Cotrone maintains that students still have access to employment. “The number of companies interviewing this fall and winter was down slightly from prior years, but, in general, students are still securing opportunities,” says Cotrone. In terms of what opportunities are available for those students interested in the troubled area of consulting, Cotrone says that these students have the opportunity to explore other options. “We’ve always had a very broad diversity of companies that come to recruit,” says Cotrone. “Although traditionally many students have gone into consulting; finance, brand management and operations management are also very popular areas of interest.”

Ashu Dalvi, who graduated last year with an undergraduate degree in business administration, was fortunate to land a job in the problematic field of management consulting. But, like many business school students at U-M, his start date was deferred. “A number of graduating students last year had their start dates deferred or offers rescinded,” says Cotrone. “But it’s been ten months since graduation and, presently, very few of our 2001 graduates are without a job.”

Dalvi does have a job, but he is beginning work almost a year later than planned. Although he was supposed to start work this past fall with A.T. Kearney, Dalvi’s start date was postponed until this July. “It was great finding a job, but getting deferred was tough to accept at first because I was excited to start work,” says Dalvi.

Even students whose start dates were not deferred are feeling uneasy about how the economy will affect their job security. Himani Patel graduated last May with a B.S. in math and economics and started working as an actuarial for a “Big Five” accounting firm in September. “I found my job a year-and-a half ago, before the economy soured,” says Patel. “But I felt uneasy about [the possibility of] losing my job the moment I started because there were a couple of layoffs in my department at the time.”

Anand Kesavan is a graduating senior in business administration and will work in the fall with UBS Payne Webber doing investment banking and public finance. “A lot of my friends, in both business and LS&A, put in just as much effort into their job search as I did,” says Kesavan. “But they didn’t get anything out of it.”

Kesavan is not new to the job search process, and has interviewed in previous years for internships.

“I put in about four times as much work into job searches this year,” Kesavan says, and admits that the process left him exhausted. “In October, I had 22 first-round interviews in one week,” explains Kesavan. “On average, I had an interview every weekday, plus exams and class.”

“I think people who are trying to get a job have to put in twice or four times the effort while getting less than half the results,” observes Kesavan. “It’s really frustrating because you’re preparing a lot more and sending out a lot more resumes.”

But Kesavan has accepted the current situation as a fact of life. “It’s tough, but that’s how it is,” he says. Others say they also have accepted the economic situation, and are adjusting to it. Dianna Dadeppo, a graduating senior in organizational studies is planning to try other avenues this semester in the hopes of finding a job.

“I posted my resume on the Career Planning and Placement Web site last semester,” explains Dadeppo. “But this semester, I’m going to try other Web sites as well, such as MonsterTrak, CampusCareerCenter.com, and Hotjobs.com.”

Costea, although frustrated with her unsuccessful job search, also is hopeful. “I may not have a job until May, August or even November,” says Costea. “But I know there will be jobs out there.”