Purchase College Alumni Discuss Current Job Market

Article I wrote for a SUNY Purchase College newspaper.

Photo courtesy of www.iebusinessnews.com

Photo courtesy of IEBusinessnews.com

Parties and dinners, business and social events, endless networking opportunities. That’s what Audrey Cozzarin, Class of ’79 of SUNY Purchase, remembers about the 1980’s after graduation. “I made so much money I didn’t know what to do with it all,” she said. Although that wasn’t everyone’s experience, many in the field of visual arts were enjoying the generous amount of work available at that time.

In those days, Cozzarin had found a full-time position running a graphics department, as well as doing side projects for clients like NYNEX (the phone company), IBM, PepsiCo, and other elite companies. “I was buying beautiful clothes, a car, traveling, and going into the city for the ballet,” she said. She even opened up IRA accounts for retirement- all this while still in her 20’s.

Joyce Butler, Ed.D, Class of ‘76 of Purchase, told a similar story. It took her all of 24 hours to land a job in the education system, where she stills works.

But the scene that today’s newspapers, websites, and maybe even your own neighbors are describing about today’s job market is vastly different. That is especially true for the generation of college students that have either just graduated or are planning on graduating in the next few years. NBC News’s Today page of their website said that this is the first generation of American workers since World War II to have worse job prospects than their predecessors. It also said that among 18-to 29-year-olds, unemployment is the highest it’s been in more than three decades.

Even worse, many of the students who have just graduated and are trying to enter the workforce are carrying staggering college loans- loans they have no chance of paying back until they find decent paying jobs.

So what’s the secret to landing a good job? The answer used to be college. Students who have recently obtained bachelor’s degrees have learned this the hard way. Butler has noticed this and said, “A bachelor’s degree isn’t enough anymore.” The education system, for instance, is much harder now to get a job in than when she was hired.

Butler, currently the Director of Pupil Personnel Services for South Hadley Public Schools in Massachusetts, knows first-hand how tough things are. She does the hiring for her schools and says that she gets over 100 applicants at a time.

The news business isn’t any easier. “It’s changed enormously and not for the good,” said Adam Nagourney, a journalist for the New York Times. Nagourney graduated from Purchase in the Class of ’77 with a degree in economics.

When he graduated, the path to a good journalism career was a straightforward one. “I began working as a stringer for The Reporter Dispatch in White Plains,” he said. His goal was to start at a small paper, doing things like writing the obituaries and covering school board meetings, then work his way up.

But, oh, how things have changed. “The mainstream newspaper market (either print or on-line) has contracted- or collapsed- in so many places,” Nagourney said, “that I’m not sure those jobs are out there anymore.”

Jason Hanasik, who graduated with the Class of 2003 and majored in visual arts, talked about how the current economy has affected art graduates. “In San Francisco during the dot-com boom,” he said, “many companies were snatching up recent MFA students because they ‘thought different’”.

But now, “fewer and fewer companies are willing to take a chance on art grads,” said Hanasik. What makes things especially difficult for art students (especially those pursuing fields which do not have an easily identifiable applied arts component) is that they often have a difficult time demonstrating and proving that their art education can translate into corporate skills.

Despite all this, though, there may be a glimmer of hope for Purchase students. Wendy Morosoff, director of the Career Development Center at the school talked about the “Life After Purchase” survey that can be found on the Career Development Center’s webpage. “The survey is conducted for employment information and placement of students one year after they graduate,” said Morosoff.

The results are surprising- and encouraging.  “Purchase College graduate placement outcome measures slightly above the national average for college graduates where 42.4% had jobs at the time of graduation and 63.6% were working within 6-7 months after graduation,” according to survey results of graduates from the Class of 2011.

The survey also said that 84.4% of these students are currently employed full or part-time and 22% are enrolled in graduate or professional school.

Also encouraging is what Cozzarin, now a professional graphic designer, creator of Peace and Health Café online, and President Emerita of the Purchase College Alumni Association had to say about networking. “Anytime you’re around ‘grown ups’,” she said, “share with them what you love, what excites you about how you want to work/live your life.” It just may “segue into a flow that is in tune with you.”

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