Seniors search for jobs amidst continuing financial crisis

For seniors at the College, the fragile economic climate has raised the stakes for post-graduation plans. While many students have success in finding jobs, another significant portion will leave in June without a full-time job offer.

According to John Noble, director of the Office of Career Counseling (OCC), about 20 percent of each class continues into Ph.D., law and medical school programs, while 40 percent of each class typically receives a job offer by commencement. “That group consists of those going into finance and consulting, teaching, non-profits and other fields, such as government, advertising and marketing,” Noble said. The remaining 40 percent of the class will be looking for employment following graduation.

Financial crisis impact

“Generally speaking, the job market is the worst it has been since the late seventies,” Noble said. “Basically, it has made finding a job much more difficult, but not impossible.” However, Noble said that prospects for College graduates are looking up if students go the extra mile. “The change in the job market has affected students’ search strategies,” Noble said. “In other words, I believe students are looking more broadly. Financial services, consulting and teaching have always been popular career fields for Williams graduates.” Noble believes that students are broadening their searches to include non-profits, the federal government and management training programs.

Jimmy Nguyen ’10, who started considering finance as a career during his sophomore and junor years, had been in the process of applying for summer internships last year when bank failures ran rampant across the country. “It didn’t necessarily change what field I wanted to go into, but the competition was a lot stiffer,” he added. “My response to that was just to cast a wide net, and I literally applied everywhere. The OCC is helpful on a basic level, but how helpful they are is also dependent on how resourceful you are.” Nguyen also talked to people in the industry and participated in Tuck Business Bridge, a summer program that recruits at the College and is geared towards providing liberal arts students with a foundation in business.

Nguyen eventually secured a summer internship through the OCC’s Route 2 system. The internship led to an offer for post-college employment. His job will entail working in investment banking and researching how to make profits for companies. He cited multiple attractive aspects of the field: “You’re around extremely intelligent people, what you’re doing is very high-profile and exciting, the work that you’re doing is pretty intellectually stimulating and you get paid a lot.”

According to Bethany Baker ’10, the economic climate affected her plans in a positive way. “I just don’t feel as much pressure to find a great entry-level job anywhere, because it doesn’t seem like anyone is finding those jobs,” she said. “It’s fairly liberating.” Baker plans to move to Chicago next year with her girlfriend and few other friends. In Chicago, she will “find a minimum-wage job that will pay the rent, hopefully with some added perk, like a gym where I would get free membership.” She is most looking forward to volunteering at a healthcare center a few hours a week, as she is interested in speech therapy and hopes to get some experience in the field, with the possibility of applying to graduate school the following year.

Baker said she chose this path after speaking with family and friends. “I admit it bothered me at first that I couldn’t find the sorts of jobs I had dreamed about when I was a freshman, but I’m okay with that,” she said. “I’ll have different opportunities now, but not necessarily lesser ones. You don’t always have to take a traditional path to be successful.”

Further education

Noble said that many students are considering year-of-service programs as an option before they head off to graduate school, but stressed that the College adequately prepares its students for continued education. “Williams students have always been terrific candidates for all sorts of graduate school programs, from Ph.D. programs to business and law school and other professional school programs,” he said. “It is true that application numbers have gone up at the most competitive schools, but our students have an equal or better chance of getting in as do those of the Ivies and other top liberal arts colleges.”

David Moore ’10 is looking into Ph.D. programs in computer science. “I’m still waiting to hear back from a couple of schools, but right now I’m choosing between Cornell, University of Washington and UC Berkeley,” he said. According to Moore, an internship at a software company gave him a fresh appreciation for “constantly learning new things and trying to solve interesting problems” at the College. “Grad school seemed like a natural way to be able to continue that,” he said. “Hopefully it might also open up career options, [but] I’ll be happy if all I get is the opportunity to spend a few more years studying some incredibly cool stuff.” Moore added that the economy had little effect on his career decisions.

Ellie Wawrzaszek ’10 will be participating in a work/study program at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, teaching English to university students while having the opportunity to take classes toward a master’s degree, learn Turkish and travel. “I started looking for jobs abroad and I was shocked to discover that my art history degree doesn’t really qualify me for anything,” she said. “So I looked into teaching English and found a lot of jobs in South Korea, but Bilkent stood out because there I’ll have the option of taking classes and getting another degree.” Like Nguyen, Wawrzaszek found her post-graduation opportunity through the OCC’s Route 2 system.

Employment abroad

Other seniors have also looked for employment opportunities abroad. Nick Caro ’10 will teach high school history and coach basketball at King’s Academy a boarding school in Madaba, Jordan. “I went to a career fair about a month ago in Cambridge and talked to representatives from a few different schools,” Caro said. “I eventually interviewed with King’s Academy and its new incoming headmaster is a Williams graduate. I was pretty nervous going into the interview, but after we talked about Williams for a little while I was much more at ease.” Caro has studied Arabic at the College and wants to travel the region and become immersed in a different culture. He was also inspired by his own high school experience in boarding school. “All of my summer internships have involved teaching so I knew I wanted to do something along those lines,” Caro said.

Like Caro, Greg Ferris ’10 plans to teach in a boarding school in the Middle East after discovering an opportunity to Qatar at the Cambridge job fair. “Because my mom’s a teacher, I always hung out at schools and always enjoyed it,” Ferris said. “I always thought [teaching] was a possibility.” Ferris cited Arabic classes and his time as a JA as experience that he thinks will benefit him in teaching at a high school. “I’ve grown to appreciate the Middle East,” Ferris said. He had been looking mostly in that region for employment. “I definitely think it will be very interesting and very different.”

Additional reporting by Sasha Mironoff, news editor

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