Philadelphia’s less-than-stellar economy doesn’t exactly make a prime job-hunting spot.
Breaking into the city’s part-time workforce can prove to be a challenge with the flaky availability and minimal job experience that often comes with being a student.
“A lot of places don’t want to sacrifice their schedules to put up with college students,” Andrew Sposato said. “Especially in retail, you have to be able to work nights, weekends, basically whenever. You sell your soul for it.”
To pay for tuition, the senior journalism major always used the money he made on commission working at a jewelry store, in addition to Stafford loans. It wasn’t until the day before Spring 2009 classes began that he found out the jewelry store was closing, and he was out half a semester’s worth of tuition money.
“Without that, I had to take out another loan,” Sposato said. “And my books? They’re just going to have to go on my credit card.”
“I can’t even solely depend on my loans anymore,” said Jessica Kichline, a sophomore advertising major who has applied for more than 25 part-time jobs without a response yet. “It’s not even an option for me.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate in December 2008 reached 6.7 percent, the highest it’s been in the past 10 years. Even so, employment opportunities in the city do exist – nabbing one is the difficult part.
“It’s scary, really,” said freshman accounting major Lauren Lettman. “It seems like everyone I know [who has applied for a job], including myself, hasn’t heard back at all.”
The Internet can be a promising place to start the job hunt. Thousands of employers list help wanted ads that are usually for immediate openings and include direct application instructions and contact information.
A simple Google search for “Philly jobs” will yield millions of hits, with sites like phillyfoodjobs.com and Craigslist containing some of the most extensive listings. Still, it’s difficult for a student to stand out in the tangled Web of résumés and references.
“Since the day we posted our first ad that we were hiring [on Craigslist], we’ve gotten about 20 responses per day,” said Dani Ferrara, a manager at Naked Chocolate Café in Center City. “Of those responses, I’d say about 90 percent of them are from students.”
Ferrara said Naked Chocolate does read all inquiries, but e-mails with detailed subject lines are the most eye-catching. And while it helps to have experience in the industry of the job you’re applying for, those who attach cover letters to their résumés earn extra brownie points.
“When people [attach a cover letter] and make it personal, talking about our specific store and why they’re right for the job, it lets us know they’re really interested,” Ferrara said.
Temple’s Career Center offers many resources for students – from help creating an attractive résumé and cover letter to OWLNETWORK, an online job-posting system.
Next week, the Career Center will host Spring Career Week 2009. While many events are geared toward students interested in post-graduation positions, some will highlight part-time opportunities.
“The Spring Career Expo will offer many helpful resources,” said Rachel Brown, director of the Career Center. “Most of the students who come into the center are looking for part-time jobs or internships, especially for pay. [The Career Expo] is a good way to find these and learn more.”
But for students like Sposato, who are running on the last leg of their college careers, the effort seems almost useless.
“I’m taking my capstone course now, so that takes up a lot of my time,” Sposato said. “It’s apparent I’m not going to get a job [before graduation]. I’m terrified: terrified of not being able to find a job, of never being able to move out of my parents’ house.”
Some students, however, would simply be comforted knowing they have a little extra cash to spare.
“Heaven forbid I’m downtown, and I need to get back [to campus] really fast,” Kichline said. “It’s sad, but I’d wonder, ‘am I going to have enough money for a cab?’ It would just be nice to know I had a little cushion once in a while.”
Maria Zankey can be reached at email@example.com.