Facing tight job market, students find help from job agencies

Career placement services are usually free to students.

Patricia Drey

To get an edge on the competition in today’s tight job market or just to get experience in their fields, some University students and recent graduates are using job-seeking services specifically geared toward them.

Most services interview students to try to match them with corporate clients. The services are usually free to students, but the corporate clients pay a fee to the service provider.

Student Experience places students in jobs working with elderly and disabled persons through the Minnesota Department of Health, Chief Economic Officer Gregg Saunders said.

The company is geared toward “mature” first-year college students and sophomores with or without experience, Saunders said.

Gaosheng Phao, a first-year nursing student, was looking for a paid internship when she decided to work with Student Experience as a personal care assistant. Before working with the company, Phao was unsure whether she wanted a career in nursing, but spending eight months with the company solidified her decision to go into the field.

“I know now this is something I can live doing and I enjoy doing,” Phao said.

The company works like a temporary employment agency. Most students earn approximately $8.50 per hour plus the possibility for bonuses, Saunders said.

The students that work with the company also meet with a career counselor every few months. Saunders said this forces first- and second-year students who might not have started career planning to begin thinking about their future.

Because the health care industry does not depend on the economy, Student Experience’s business is still growing, but some other career-service providers are feeling the economic pinch.

In the past, most interns for St. Paul-based Corporate Interns ended up with permanent jobs, but now more interns are getting jobs working on projects for about three months at a time, company president Jason Engen said.

“They’ve laid off a lot of people, but the workload has fallen basically on someone else’s plate,” Engen said. “It’s cost effective to Ö sacrifice a little in experience and cut back their work force.”

The company places mainly college juniors and seniors into business, engineering and some science jobs. They work with companies such as US Bank, TCF Bank and the United Way.

There are more technology jobs now, but students in fields such as marketing and communications are much more difficult to place, Engen said. Because marketing departments are often the first cut during tough economic times, the competition for jobs is fierce, and he said he might get 300 resumes for every marketing position.

The Career Advisors’ Edina, Minn., office connects graduates with sales, marketing, advertising and business management jobs in a variety of industries, said Pete Eisenbarth, the company’s vice president.

“Like anybody in any company, we’ve seen some repercussions in terms of what the economy has done,” Eisenbarth said. “We’re fortunate that sales are always going to generate revenue and a company is always going to need to generate revenue.”

Eisenbarth also said placing students in marketing and advertising jobs has been tougher lately. The graduate students his company places typically start earning from $25,000 to $35,000 per year, he said.

Gradstaff, an employment service in Minneapolis, places about six liberal arts students per week in a variety of companies such as Lifetime Fitness, Metro Sales, Popp Telecom, Wells Fargo and US Bank.

They receive approximately 125 resumes per week from recent graduates, and they use phone and in-person interviews to narrow their field of applicants to match students with businesses.

Before heading to any off-campus career service provider, Career and Community Learning Center career counselor Paul Timmins recommends stopping by their office to look for opportunities first.

“We tell people they need to be pretty cautious and ask questions, and to be sure not to go to any place where they’re asked to pay fees,” Timmins said. “Most that do a good job charge the companies that they make placements with.”

Patricia Drey covers student life and welcomes comments at [email protected]