‘Not so good out there:’ New college grads struggle to find full-time work

By Ashley Caudill/Kent State NewsLab

If you’ve talked to any recent graduates lately, you’ve probably heard about how difficult it feels to find a job after college. 

The stats show there are plenty of jobs available and companies are hiring. In The Bureau of Labor Statistics February 2023 jobs report, there were 3.6 million unfilled jobs across the country. The current unemployment rate stands at 3.7%, which is low compared to the last two decades. 

But 2023 and 2024 college graduates still say they’re struggling to find full-time jobs — despite feeling like they’re doing everything right. 

Hailey Kukrul, a 2023 graduate of Kent State University, applied to 209 jobs between Jan. 1 and March 1. Kurkral graduated with her bachelor’s degree in digital media production. In college, Kukral managed a radio station with over 70 team members while she ran her own radio show. 

“Even with that experience, I was still being told that the company was going with another candidate because they had more experience. For an entry-level position,” Kukral said. 

And Kurkral isn’t alone. The labor market is tight right now, said Eric Johnson, an associate professor of economics at Kent State.

Johnson explained that after the shock of COVID-19, inflation reached nearly 8%. The normal story is that when inflation rises, a recession follows. People tend to avoid leaving stable jobs when the economy is uncertain, Johnson said.

“When people are confident about the economy, they’re happy to quit, because they’re like, hey, I’ll go out and get another job in no time,” Johnson said. “And we’ve seen quits fall off — like nobody is quitting. So everybody who’s got a job is holding on to it. And companies are not hiring, as we said, so… [it] is starting to look not so good out there.” 

Companies also tend to be more conservative in hiring when they believe a recession is approaching. In the job market before the pandemic, it was common for there to be plenty of job openings but not enough job applicants, Johnson said. Now, that excess of job openings has vanished and we are left with too many applicants and not enough spaces to fill. 

However, that recession hasn’t happened. And Johnson said the Federal Reserve may start cutting interest rates this year, which could loosen some of those constraints. 

“Inflation is pretty close to where they want to get it…. And they’re talking about cutting [interest rates] year,” Johnson says. “So when that happens, we don’t necessarily know. But once that starts to happen, things will start to loosen up a little bit in the job market.”

Joblist surveyed 1,000 job seekers across the country in 2023. On average, job seekers apply for 10-15 jobs and will receive 6-10 rejections before they might get an offer. The survey also found that 49.5% of job seekers lose confidence in themselves after being rejected, most of those being younger generations like Generation Z. 

“You’re gonna get maybe 100 no’s, but then you’ll get one yes,” said Alison Spitzer, COO and Partner of Hay There Social Media and president of Spitzer Automotive Group. “You just need to keep at it and realize that, no matter what field you’re in, rejection is just part of life. And if you can’t handle the rejection, then you’re not going to keep pursuing.”

Spitzer has interviewed hundreds of people for her companies. She says she doesn’t rely resumes or interviews alone — she looks broadly at how an applicant makes themselves stand out. 

“If I was a new graduate looking for work, I would be networking,” Spitzer said. “I would be saying yes.” 

There are plenty of ways to network, Spitzer said, like attending dinners, events or sending cold emails asking for a quick introduction meeting. An easy way to start is by finding companies and jobs that interest you on company websites and job searching engines and finding the people who work there on sites like Linkedin. 

“Getting into some sort of acquaintance networking relationship with them is going to be so much more important than just firing off 100 resumes,” Spitzer said.

Patrica Hadzinski, a 2023 graduate from Loyola University Chicago, applied for jobs for four months. She attended networking events, sent cold emails to marketing and public relations firms in various cities and went through multiple interview processes only to be told that they went with another candidate. 

After receiving an invitation to a dinner with a peer, Hadzinski met her soon-to-be boss who asked if she would be interested in helping her for a week. Now, she works there full-time. 

“I interned from August to December. And it was just my literal luck of the draw that I was even able to do that,” Hadzinski said. “And now I’m full-time, but it took me only like eight, nine months to get there.” 

While Kukrul is still on the hunt for a full-time position, she works part-time as a technician for livestreaming auctions for Greenie Sports Cards and part-time as a studio coordinator for School of Rock. 

“I specialize in audio and I would love to do that for the rest of my life, but that doesn’t really exist on the scale right now,” Kukral said. “I don’t have the privilege to be picky. There may be a job that I don’t partially care about or a company that I don’t necessarily like, but I have applied because it’s still something.”

This story was originally published by the Kent State NewsLab, a collaborative news outlet publishing journalism by Kent State students.

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