Despite fears, employment outlook in Iowa is steady

by Emily SchettlerCopy Editor

The current economic slowdown may have some students, particularly seniors, worried about finding a job come May, but Del Shepard, director of Career Services, said it’s not time to panic yet.

Shepard said that while some companies are cutting entry-level positions, the jobs that Simpson students will be applying for seem to be secure.

“I don’t think the economy – the way it’s sitting now, unless something drastic happens – is going to change the employment outlook,” Shepard said. “It’s business as usual. I don’t see any dramatic downturns.”

Manufacturing industries have been some of the hardest hit by job loss and the economic downfall, and Shepard said Iowans are fortunate to not be directly impacted.

“I think we’re somewhat insulated from that being in Iowa,” he said. “That’s an advantage. I think that some of the large industries, we’ve seen some of that with Maytag, but we’re not as susceptible as some of the East Coast and West Coast areas where large businesses have pulled out or dramatically cut back.”

The number of job listings on Simpson’s Career Services Web site remains high, and Shepard said healthcare and education in particular currently have a lot of openings.

Students in other areas of study, however, said they are having trouble finding job openings.

Senior Kelli Herzberg, who is studying English, journalism and marketing, said she hasn’t seen a lot of opportunities in her field.

“It’s nerve-racking,” Herzberg said. “There are a lot of listings in fields I’m not interested in. In my field there’s very few.”

Simpson alumnae Amanda Botts, who graduated in May, said she has had little success in her job hunt. She’s been looking for more than four months and has been unable to find a job.

“I have been actively searching for a fulltime job since May Term and still have found no luck landing a position,” Botts said. “It has been very scary, and it is to the point now that I am looking for jobs in retail or seasonal work so that I have a paycheck to live off of.”

Botts said she thinks the current economic situation has played a large role in the lack of employment opportunities.

“I think it has a lot to do with the stock market because lots of companies are not hiring or are doing huge layoffs.”

When the job market tightens, there is often an increase in the number of students who bypass looking for a job and go directly to graduate school. Shepard said that the added education can help later, but it can also backfire.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Shepard said. “By going out and continuing their education, they’re just putting themselves into a higher position possibly, at least in their own mind, but then when they apply for jobs, they may find that the graduate degree isn’t working for them like it would if they were to get that while they were working in a position gaining work experience.”

According to Shepard, experience could be an even more important factor as students apply for jobs in the future. One way of gaining that experience, through internships, could be harder to come by.

As companies struggle financially, internship programs could be the first things cut.

“It certainly will be one of those areas that businesses have to look at in whether they can support an internship program, but it’s an excellent opportunity for people to get their foot in the door,” Shepard said.

Shepard said some of the most important things students can do are to start looking for jobs early and to look at specific companies in the industry they are interested in working in.

“There’s a large number of positions in companies that don’t always hit the newspapers or the internet,” he said. “It takes some research to find the right organization that they’re interested in rather than just reacting to what’s out there.”