Class of 2024 graduates to enter tumultuous workforce

Amid a challenging job market and AI-driven recruitment, recent college grads face hurdles in securing employment, despite available professional development opportunities.

A large number of graduates are struggling to find jobs due to a lack of entry-level positions. | OLIVER ECONOMIDIS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Graduation day is supposed to be one of the best days of a student’s life, but with a lackluster job market consisting of few entry-level positions available to new grads, a growing number of students are struggling to find full-time positions after graduation. 

Many students like Olivia Sariano began applying to jobs in November 2023 on LinkedIn, Indeed and other online job boards. 

“I know a lot of people who are in my field who are having the same issue,” Sariano said. “I feel all my professors were like, ‘The job market’s great right now,’ but I think it’s really difficult for people who don’t already have established connections in the field right now, I’ve had internships and everything, but there’s only so far that those connections can take you.” 

Sariano, a Fall 2023 public relations alumna, had multiple internships and roles within student organizations applicable to her degree, but still, Sariano and friends within her field have struggled to break into the field of communications and public relations post-graduation. 

The unemployment rate rose to 3.9% in February 2023, the highest in two years, indicating underlying softening in the labor market. Besides a cool job market, massive layoffs across the tech industry have also caused levels of insecurity and uncertainty for many.

There have been more than 4,600 job reductions since May 2023 — many occurring either to reallocate resources for hiring individuals with AI expertise or due to task automation by the technology, Bloomberg News reported

“It takes more months, more time to actually find a position and it’s because of so many people that were laid off more or less recently within the last year or so,” said Dilyara Kashaeva, director of employer partnerships at Temple’s Center for Student Professional Development within the Fox School of Business. “So the competition is high for remote positions, especially so we recommend looking at hybrid or full-time work on-site positions just to maximize their chances.”

AI is now being used in the employee application process and taking over the position of company recruiters. Machines screen candidates’ resumes for certain keywords, numbers or phrases to weed out prospective candidates, without even meeting them for an interview. 

“Even in an interview, a lot of companies now are leaning towards asynchronous or synchronous virtual interviews,” said Lindsay Marke, director of undergraduate professional development at CSPD. “Therefore, it’s important that students are prepared, especially if it’s asynchronous, to respond to the question, with proper enunciation and looking at the camera, so there are certain skills in that aspect as well.”

The scope and expectations of employment are also changing, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. More employees demand hybrid or remote employment; as of 2023, 12.7% of full-time employees work from home, while 28.2% work a hybrid model, Forbes reported

Less than half of college graduates express confidence in their career prospects upon graduating from campus, according to a 2023 survey conducted by College Pulse for LendEDU, a student loan resource website. Many students struggle to find entry-level positions within their field because the level of required experience continues to rise — many requiring three to five years, Forbes reported

Gen Z college graduates also face challenges in the workplace as less than half of employers prefer hiring recent college graduates. Many employers perceive recent college graduates as entitled, lacking professionalism and being unprepared for the workforce, according to a December 2023 survey by Intelligent, an education based media outlet.

Despite concerns from employers regarding the Gen Z workforce, Fox’s CSPD, prepares undergraduate and graduate students and alumni with the tools needed to succeed in the workforce through interview preparation and resume review among other initiatives. 

Many students within Fox are currently impacted by a rise of AI usage in the professional job market and have leaned on CSPD for support with job placement. 

“A lot of companies like JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank and others are looking into ways of doing all the work that is done by entry level analysts to be done by AI infused platforms,” Kashaeva said. 

Due to large tech companies making headlines with massive layoffs, Kashaeva recommends students tailor their resumes and cover letters to any specific talents that may make them stand out. 

“The market is challenging, but it’s gradually I think, turning around as more companies are starting to hire,” Kashaeva said. “In my current role. I do work with plenty of different companies, and they are still having internships and jobs that they’re hiring for, so it’s just a matter of finding the right talent for the right division.”

Despite the many cheat codes or hacks to beat AI reviewing applications, or competitive candidates, some applicants and recent graduates feel jaded and cheated out of an opportunity to gain employment applicable to their degree. 

Temple graduates, like Nick Maurer, a 2017 public relations alumnus, also describe the marketing and communications field as crowded and ever-changing due to AI.

“Jobs in the field are becoming more scarce and the talent pool only increases each year,” Maurer said. “It is very different from when I graduated and even then I had a very hard time landing a job. Even worse, AI threatens our entire industry. It’s definitely a volatile time to be in marketing.”

Although the current job market appears smaller than ever to recent graduates looking for an entry-level position, Kashaeva has noticed dozens of unfilled internships. 

The high concentration of unfilled internship positions is a ray of hope for students looking to enter the job market, and an opportunity for undergraduates to take advantage of. 

“There are so many internships that are still posted on Handshake, and I do get reached out to by different companies saying that they’re still hiring for their logistics position, or enterprise liabilities hiring for summer internship positions,” Kashaeva said. 

Most graduate’s first job will typically be a position that doesn’t directly match their field of study, according to the United States Census Bureau. When applying and looking for entry-level positions after graduation, existing professional and networking relationships help many students find job placement. 

Jo Zera initially struggled to find a position in her immediate job field, but she was able to find a job after she began applying to positions outside of media studies. 

“Something that I found helpful was kind of like trying to spread my interests,” said Zera, a 2023 media studies alumna, content creator and destination ambassador for Bucks County. “Right now I do have a job in tourism, in Bucks County, and that’s something I’ve been enjoying.”

Each college, and even specific majors like marketing, hold at least one career fair within the academic year. Job fairs can be beneficial to students as it allows for direct interaction with industry professionals, access to different employers in one space and allows for insight into the day-to-day of industry professionals, according to LinkedIn. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Klein College of Media and Communications had roughly a 90% job placement rate, between post-graduate hiring and continuation of higher education; the rate decreased to 70% throughout the pandemic and currently lies at roughly 82%, said Lu Ann Cahn, Klein’s director for career services. 

“Depending on which part of media communication there may be fewer advertising dollars, there’s more and more media divvying up the available advertising dollars and that means fewer dollars to pay staff and people,” Cahn said. “So, technology and the economy just changes in the industry, all of that has been really challenging.”

During 2019 and 2021, the number of employed college graduates rose by 2.5%, while the number of unemployed college graduates increased by 17.9%, according to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. 

“I’m not happy unless everybody gets a job, it’s the way I feel,” Cahn said. “With unemployment low you can get a job, but we don’t feel like we succeed until everybody’s getting a job in the field that they want to be in.”

Olivia Sariano has previously freelanced for The Temple News. She did not contribute to the writing, reporting or editorial process of this story.

Anna Augustine contributed reporting.

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