Class of '02 faces uncertain job market
The job market faced by the Class of 2002 may be slightly
different from what was anticipated before September 11 and the recession,
according to Career Planning Center director Anne Shields.
Recruiting efforts and hiring levels have changed, and student
interests appear to be shifting as well. "Our students this year,
and students on other campuses like ours, appear to be taking a significant
shift toward teaching, non-profit, public interest, and government,"
"We are seeing a greater interest in not only private
school teaching but alternative certification for public school teaching.
Bowdoin has historically produced a lot of people who teach in their first
few years out of school, but it seems to be growing," she added.
"We have a significant number looking at Americore (Americorps) and
Teach For America."
According to Shields, the Career Planning Center has seen
an "exponential leap" in government sector interest this year
as well. "We were starting to see the shift back to public service
work anyway, but I think September 11 may have given that a nudge,"
"Part of that is who we're bringing in as candidates
from high schools-due to curricular changes in schools
I think it's
a natural pendulum shift that got accentuated."
Roughly a third of government employees will reach retirement
age by 2005, a figure that is receiving some press attention and driving
Shields indicated that, while some trends are easily observable,
it is difficult to isolate their causes. "There's a lot of things
happening concurrently, and it's hard to know how much of it clearly points
to the economy, for example."
Additionally, data on a national scale may provide a skewed
view of the job market for graduating seniors. "They're accurate
for what they measure, but they're not easily [transferable] to Bowdoin,"
Shields said. "Unfortunately, there are no national numbers that
measure for liberal arts colleges."
While it doesn't appear that the graduate school/employment
mix will be vastly different this year, there may be some change. "I
haven't seen a marked increase in Class of 2002 students saying 'I want
to go to school next year,'" Shields said. "Most people come
in and say, "I figure I'll be going to grad school or professional
school at some point, in a few years."
If students do wish to attend graduate school right after
Bowdoin, they may encounter closed doors. "Business schools have,
for a long time, been saying 'Go and live for a while and then come see
us,'" she said. "It started off as 'Go live for a year or two,'
and now the typical starting age at the top business schools is 27 or
28. The better law and med schools have begun to move in that direction
Another area where Career Planning is seeing changes is
in campus visits from companies. "Toward the end of the summer and
then after September 11, people started to say 'We have no idea what our
hiring needs are going to be, the profits were not what we expected for
this quarter, and we're not hiring,'" Shields said. "In April
and May, a lot of the large organizations, particularly the consulting
firms, were still stalling in appointing people to positions."
The picture has improved since the initial skittishness
of the fall, however. "Since the start of this semester, some of
these firms have called us and said, 'OK, we're feeling a little more
confident, let's talk about either coming to campus or doing some resume
referrals,' etc.," said Shields.
The Career Planning Center's capability to track student
career interests has increased since the introduction of the EBear database
system last year. "Before this, our office didn't have a sort of
registration process; we didn't know who was interested in what,"
The system allows career-planning counselors to see what
trends do and do not exist. "[For instance,] there is the impression
that more students are interested in finance and Wall Street than actually
are, and that's probably true at most institutions of our type,"
Shields said. "We found last year that students were expressing much
Obviously, differences exist between liberal arts degrees
and the more specialized degrees students earn from larger universities.
Shields indicated that these differences have important implications in
"One of the challenges that Bowdoin students will face
in this market is that employers are going to want immediately usable
technical skills," she said. "We're starting to tell students
that they're going to have to be responsible themselves for getting these
skills. "One of the ways that students are starting to get these
skills is through the service learning classes on campus," she said.
"They're very similar to internships with their hands-on approach."
Shields said that, in her opinion, liberal arts majors who
take some extra steps might even be at an advantage over others in the
job market. "Liberal arts majors tend to progress more rapidly once
they've decided what it is they want to do, because it's the general skills
that move people into leadership and management positions," she said.
"If you have a path that you might want to follow,
get the skills that will allow you to have doors propped open for you