Thursday, June 02, 2005
Show them the money
As this year's college graduates enter the real world, they are not only finding jobs, but they're also getting fatter paychecks.
Sam Bickley, a college graduate from Virginia Tech, had his job signed, sealed and delivered back in October - seven months before pomp and circumstance. No laboring over resumes. No taxing cover letters.
Bickley, 22, will start his new job June 13 as a field manager for Centex Homes, a national home builder based in Dallas. His first assignment will be in Northern Virginia.
"I will oversee the subcontractors. I'll be in charge of scheduling and quality control of all the houses. I'll be responsible for all inspections," Bickley said. "I'll walk homeowners through their homes and address all their concerns."
This year, college graduates such as Bickley are not only finding jobs. They're getting fatter paychecks.
Employers across the country expect to hire 13 percent more graduates than last year, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
This is a bright spot considering the hiring of new college graduates had been on the decline in recent years because of a sluggish economy. In 2002, the NACE survey found employers expected a 20 percent decrease in hiring new college graduates, followed by a 4 percent decrease in 2003.
Bickley earned a degree in building construction from Virginia Tech's college of architecture.
Job placement for those graduates was 100 percent.
"I don't want to say it [the job] fell on my lap. ... I went to a job fair in my junior year, talked to some guys and the next day Centex hired me for an internship," Bickley said. "I guess I left an impression."
The Spring 2005 issue of the NACE Salary Survey shows that average salary offers to new college graduates, especially in business and engineering, are climbing at a steady pace.
The salary range for start-up careers in the construction industry is between $46,000 and $60,000, said Kimberly Mitchell, career development coordinator at Virginia Tech's department of building construction.
Other hot jobs include private accounting, management trainee positions, teaching and consulting.
College graduates like to get into management training because they move in and up, quickly, said Toni McLawhorn, director of career services at Roanoke College.
Even nonprofits, a $9 billion industry, have stepped up their hiring and salaries, said Tina Rolen, director of career development at Hollins University.
For Hollins graduate Samantha Payne, job hunting included answering six ads posted by Follett Higher Education Group. The group owns more than 700 college bookstores, including the one at Hollins.
Because of her previous work experience at the Hollins bookstore, and a one-month internship in Chicago, Follett's headquarters, Payne lined up a job fairly quickly. "All but one of the jobs were filled within a week," Payne said. "I got the job in New Mexico."
The 22-year-old will be the general merchandise manager of the bookstore at New Mexico Military Institute, a high school and two-year college. She starts June 6.
"I'm completely free and open to go anywhere in the country," she said.
"The company is very friendly and caring, a family-run company. I absolutely loved my manager. It's a good work environment," she said. "I enjoyed selling books and clothes and the interaction with students. The company treated me very well." Those factors drove her decision to start her career with Follett, even though she has a degree in economics.
An internship was also key for Virginia Tech graduate Jessica Hynson, 21, who landed a job with Colonial Farm Credit in Tappahannock as a loan officer trainee. She starts work July 1.
"I interned with Farm Credit in Pennsylvania, really enjoyed it and I wanted to be a little closer to home," said Hynson, who is from Colonial Beach.
Hynson met Farm Credit officials at a career fair and gave them her resume last fall. They offered her a job in the spring.
"It was a big relief to have landed a job so soon," she said. "I had hoped it would be this easy. In all reality, though, I didn't think it would be as easy as this. I'm really fortunate."
She'll also study land use policy for a month in Australia, prior to starting her job. Her degree is in agricultural and applied economics.
Many Hollins graduates are going abroad; one will teach in China and another in Brazil.
"Many of our students do a semester abroad and want to go back as quickly as possible," Rolen said.
Because of Hollins' eclectic student body, it's almost impossible to say that a majority are pursuing one particular field, Rolen said. "We have a lot of students interested in art, museums and galleries. We don't have your nice little steppingstones.
"We seem to have a lot of students interested in teaching in the private sector."
About 30 percent are going to graduate school.
It takes Hollins graduates between six and 12 months to find jobs, Rolen said. But "we don't have students frantically saying 'I don't have a job;' What can I do?'"
Within the past five years, she has seen a trend toward service occupations, with a good number of students working in the Peace Corps.
Sales positions ranked in the top 10 jobs offered to college graduates this year, according to NACE. The average salary is $37,130.
Rachel Rodes, a graduate from Roanoke College, started working full time for Mel Wheeler, a broadcasting company, the day after graduation. The company owns five radio stations in the Roanoke Valley: WXLK, K-92; WSLQ, Q-99; and WSLC, 94.9.
The 22-year-old received her degree in business administration with a concentration in communications. As a senior, Rodes got an internship in the promotion department with Q-99, and when she finished a sales assistant position opened up.
"The general manager asked me to apply for it. I revamped my resume and formally applied," Rodes said.
Answering to the sales representatives, Rodes said she does "all kinds of stuff."
"I did everything from cleaning a neon sign to putting together a book that was taken to a sales presentation in New York City.
"This is a dream job for me because I've always wanted to work in the music industry," she said. "I grew up listening to K-92 and Q-99, and to actually work for them is awesome."
But the picture is not so bright for the older group of college graduates, ages 25 to 35, who already have jobs but may be looking for new ones.
They're facing a weak labor market, said Elise Gould, an economist with Economic Policy Institute. Wages have fallen for the third year in a row. Between 2001 and 2004, wages dropped from $23.04 an hour to $22.41 an hour. Wages were up by the end of the 1990s when the labor market was tight. But in 2001, a sharp turnaround lowered wages.