by Rebecca Arrington
director Jim McBride (second from right) and members of his
staff routinely meet with U.Va. students about career opportunities,
Students seek alternative job choices
in tough times
By Joanna Gluckman
graduation season approaches, the rocky economy has fourth-year
students scrambling for a plan of action. Some students are getting
creative and pursuing alternatives joining the Peace Corps,
signing up for Teach for America, or planning to ride through
the economic turbulence in a log cabin out West.
to the Universitys
Career Services Office, on-Grounds interviews with potential
employers are down 20 percent overall compared with last year.
But the pain has not been evenly distributed. While students in
the McIntire School of Commerce and the School of Engineering
and Applied Science have seen only a 12 percent decrease in on-Grounds
interviews, those in the College of Arts & Sciences have been
the hardest hit, with 38 percent fewer opportunities this year
many fourth-year students are worried that traditional jobs will
be difficult to nail down, others see the uncertain economy as
an opportunity to pursue unconventional career paths.
the Sept. 11 tragedy, Lauren Franzel, a fourth-year student from
Philadelphia majoring in commerce, shelved plans for a career
on Wall Street to fulfill a lifelong dream of going to Africa
with the Peace Corps.
the downturn in the job market played a role in my decision to
join the Peace Corps, it was by no means the largest motivating
factor, Franzel said. In addition to the status of
the job market, Sept. 11 has caused a lot of people to reevaluate
their career choices and other life decisions.
an economics major, Anne Martin, a fourth-year student from Norfolk,
had always imagined herself in the business world after graduation.
This year, however, Martin decided to channel her talents in a
different direction and applied to the Teach for America program.
The initiative places recent college graduates in teaching positions
in low-income communities across the United States.
was always a little hesitant about office-type jobs, but felt
that that was what I was supposed to do as an economics major,
Martin said. When the economy started to drop and the job
market stalled, lots of people got very worried and upset. But
I thought it was the perfect opportunity to find something else
to do that was more fulfilling. I am getting more excited every
day about Teach for America.
After fulfilling their two-year obligations with the Peace Corps
and Teach for America, program alumni will have acquired new sets
of skills that will help them build successful careers in any
number of fields, U.Va. career officials said.
public sector also offers viable career alternatives, and since
the terrorist attacks, federal government agencies especially
those involved with national security have stepped up their
campus recruiting efforts, said Ladd Flock, director of career
services for the College.
list of government agencies attending this years career
fair includes the CIA, the Internal Revenue Service, the State
Department, the National Security Agency, the U.S. Border Patrol
and the U.S. Customs Service. Demographics also factor into public
sector recruitment. With 53 percent of all current government
employees becoming eligible for retirement within five years,
government agencies are recruiting heavily right now, Flock said.
graduating fourth-year students seem to be more willing to try
graduate school. Requests for admission to graduate schools of
business, law, journalism and education around the country have
shot up by as much as 100 percent, according to a recent New York
U.Va., the School of Law, the Darden Graduate School of Business
Administration and the Engineering Schools graduate admissions
office all report 30 percent increases in applications this year.
a tough economy brings about a surge in applications, said
Beth Flye, senior associate director of admissions for Darden.
Flye noted that the increase in application volume has been paralleled
by a rise in quality.
still other students, the answer lies in hitting the road. Whitney
Watson, a fourth-year student from Roanoke is majoring in history,
has postponed plans to apply to law school. Instead, she plans
to travel and explore the country west of the Mississippi River,
avoiding the application frenzy altogether. At least for now.