By Pharoh Martin, NNPA National Correspondent –
WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Like thousands of recent college graduates who have marched proudly in their caps and gowns, 22-year-old Nikole Pegues' plan is to now get a job. But, how that plan is going to pan out is a little bit of a mystery at this point.
The Queens, New York native, upon receiving her bachelor's degree from Howard University, went from being a college student with high hopes to an unemployment statistic with a six-month countdown to pay back four years of student loans.
"I don't know many people who have paying jobs lined up after graduation," Pegues said. "I only know of two or three."
The good news is that the economy produced 290,000 jobs last month, the largest gain in four years, according the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report. The bad news is that the unemployment rate for African-Americans is an unacceptable 16.5 percent.
Pegues has been sending out resumes since January, but she’s gotten very few responses. Two weeks ago, she received two rejections. But two days following her graduation ceremony she received two calls for interviews.
"I'm not sure if companies were waiting on me to graduate or what," she said.
Her back-up plan is to start applying to jobs completely out of her field.
"It really hurts me to think that I've spent four years in school and spent about $100,000 dollars to end up working in a field that is not related to my degree,” Pegues said. “In the same breath, six months out I have to start paying on my school loans."
And as a very last resort, if she is still unable to find some type of gainful employment, she'd be willing to drive herself further into debt and apply to graduate master's programs in an attempt to become even more competitive. But, while searching for options, the impact on self-esteem can be grueling.
"What's wrong with me where I'm not competitive enough? Why am I not getting a response that I thought I would? I felt entitled,” she said. “I thought once I got a college degree I'm entitled to a job, that's just how this was supposed to work. You're told your whole life, "If you go to college you'll get a degree and make 'X' amount of money.""
Carol Dudley, director of career development for Howard University's School of Communications, is sending job leads to the hundreds of other students and graduates who are scrambling for positions. She said that while full fledged jobs are still hard to come by for post-recession graduates, many are taking advantage of post-graduate internships to get a foot inside with employers.
"The trend I'm noticing is that employers are not yet ceasing all of their jobs but what they are offering are college graduates post-graduate internships,” Dudley said. “They are paid. And you [are] expected to work full-time as a permanent employee."
The benefit to the company is that they don't have the permanent commitment to somebody that may not workout. But at the same time, the person interning will have an opportunity for permanent employment after their internship ends, which is typically in about 8-12 weeks.
Internships are good for temporary income, but they are not stable.
Jan Challenger, a recent graduate from City University New York- Brooklyn College, will be working on a 10-week paid internship for a company in Philadelphia for the summer.
Unfortunately, she's not counting on getting hired afterward.
"I wanted a job but because they are in bankruptcy even if I do well I won't get a job,” Challenger said. “After that, I really don't know what the future holds."
The internship will still give Challenger some tangible work experience and maybe a few contacts in her field.
"What job recruiters are looking for, and I don't think this ever changes, is someone who is skilled, confident and knowledgeable about the job, someone who has a vision beyond the expectations of the job,” Dudley said. “I think a company is looking for a kid that is work-ready, has an adequate resume that not only establishes leadership and academic preparation but they are looking for someone that has service and overall preparations to be competently employed, including being technologically prepared by being familiar with applications that are used across workplaces."
Dudley advises that a functional resume should briefly demonstrate an applicant's education, relevant work experience, awards, skills and service. She suggests that job seekers be concise in their descriptions and use a clean, reader-friendly format for the layout of a resume. And while not always the rule, she advises applicants to try and limit the resume's length to one page as it makes it easier for an employer to quickly and accurately evaluate their qualifications against the dozens perhaps hundred of other of resumes that may have been submitted for the same position.
She said that the cover letter is one of the keys to the application.
The letter should introduce the applicant and introduce that person's qualities and characteristics as a potential employee that can't quite fit on a resume. The cover letter is pretty much a professional profile that attempts to convince employers to "read further. Find out more about me." The cover letter should be concise as well, no more than three or four essential paragraphs- an introduction, the meat of profile in the body and a conclusion.
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