College Graduates Remain Optimistic Despite Tough Times

More than 13 million Americans are unemployed. Few new jobs are being created. The country is suffering its worst recession in decades. Any one of these statements would be enough to bring the toughest to their knees. But not, for the most part, the graduating class of 2011. Somehow, some way, they are staring down these somber facts and facing their futures with steadfast optimism.

By Harrison Howe

'Things are Turning Around'

In the face of what some are calling 'the Great Recession', such sanguinity seems unlikely. But when surveys show that a staggering 90 percent of graduates believe they will find a job in their field, it's hard to argue that those tossing graduation caps into the air this spring aren't happy and hopeful individuals.

By some indications, this optimism is not without basis. 'Things are turning around,' said Amanda Devereaux, assistant director of the University of Oregon's Career Center, in the May 15, 2011 issue of The Daily Emerald, a University of Oregon publication. 'Our students have been getting jobs everywhere.' A survey shows that nearly 50 percent of companies are expecting to hire those who have recently graduated.

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Employer participation in job fairs is up. Job prospects are improving. A growing number of college seniors who have applied for jobs prior to graduation are getting offers. And hiring projections, according to data collected by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, are up nearly 20 percent over last year (the highest increase since 2007).

Optimism, With a Touch of Realism

Is all as rosy as it sounds? While the vast majority of graduates remain certain of success and wealth, many are aware of the tough times that exist now and that lie ahead (75 percent acknowledge the bad economy). And an overwhelming number concede that they are unlikely to be as prosperous in their chosen fields as their parents were before them.

Generally, while optimism seems abundant, some polls show otherwise. More young people are more pessimistic about the economy today than those polled in April 2007, before the recession hit. Many have seen a parent or older relative get laid off or struggle financially through these tough times, and they themselves admit that their money stretches thin as the week progresses.

New Graduates, New Entrepreneurs

None of this, however, is enough to deter their resiliency and hope. 'A lot of stuff in the news is telling everyone that they can't, that the economy is crumbling and there's no room for anyone to do anything. But I'm watching that being disproven every day,' Lucas Ward of Oregon told The 23-year-old overcame financial troubles while attending community college to land a good opportunity at a clothing company, which is leading him to build his own business.

So, couple all the positive news with a youthful outlook on life and success stories like Lucas Ward's, and it's no small wonder hope is springing eternal. Take that, Great Recession!

As you optimistically head off to find a job following graduation, make sure you know the do's and don'ts of interviewing!

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