Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

SPEAKING OF EDUCATION: Beyond Pomp and Circumstance

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

SPEAKING OF EDUCATION: Beyond Pomp and Circumstance

Article excerpt

SPEAKING OF EDUCATION: Beyond Pomp and Circumstance.

by Julianne Malveaux

It's Pomp and Circumstance season again. After four (or five, or six) years of hard work, thousands of our youngsters will put on cap and gown, listen to a speaker's exhortations, grab the diploma, hug the parents and leave commencement exercises on a mission to begin their adult lives with graduate school or a job. Many (and maybe even most) seniors have the next year or so planned, but some are still waiting to hear from the graduate school or the employer about what's next.

The old job market just ain't what it used to be. It has never been "all that" for African American students in the past decade. The downsizing that makes parents fear layoffs often now means that students who find jobs have to look for them in unexpected places. The Fortune 500 turned its profit situation around in 1993, posting aggregate profits of $62 billion. Still, employment in Fortune 500 companies is down by half a million from a year ago, and a full million workers from 1991. Indeed, it is interesting that Fortune 500 firms have so much influence in U.S. labor markets, since with 11 million total workers, they only employ 10 percent of all American workers.

Fortune Magazine reported that campus recruiting for jobs dropped to an all-time low in 1992 and is now inching back up. Its data on 100 big companies shows that more than 30,000 students were hired from campus recruitment in 1989, but that it was down to about 14,000 by 1992, and has just begun to inch back up. To be sure, 80 percent of those who look for work will find it in six months, and most of those think their first jobs are good ways to start a career. Starting salaries are inching up, as well, with students in fields like engineering and pharmacy seeing boosts of more than 10 percent over a year ago. But the unemployment differential that plagues the entire Black community has no special mercy on new college graduates. African American youngsters are more likely than their white counterparts to look up to a year for work, to take the low paying part-time job that doesn't jump the career off, or to choose the wrong job by default.

This doesn't mean that graduating seniors should panic. It does mean that they should be armed with an aggressiveness that gets their foot into the door of the employer of their choice, armed with the savvy to start a business of their own if need be. What's aggressive? Going after an employer instead of waiting for a campus visit. Sending not one letter, but a series of follow-up letters or phone calls. …

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