University students looking to benefit from the usually vast pool of recruiters who come to campus each year will be forced to impress a smaller crowd this year as companies try their best to survive the current economic downturn.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 7.6 percent national unemployment rate as of January — the highest it has been since 1992. According to figures released yesterday by the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, unemployment rose to 11.6 percent in January. A tougher job market exacerbated by company layoffs nationwide has left in its wake a significant reduction in internships and full-time position opportunities for students.

Director of Career Development and Student Affairs at the Ross School of Business Al Cotrone cited the financial crisis as one major factor underlying the reduced recruiter presence on campus.

“We have seen a decrease in the number of on-campus interviewing schedules offered this year,” Cotrone said. “That has been led by the investment banks.”

He said students now faced with the pressures of a strained job market must rely on a self-directed search and leverage the University’s vast alumni network.

Cotrone also said that large companies have often come to campus during stronger economic times with specific recruitment goals in mind, but smaller and midsize businesses offer significant opportunities for job seekers in today’s market.

The reverberations of the economic downturn have also been felt at other universities which are reporting lower recruitment numbers compared to past years.

Theda Rudd, associate director in career cervices at Michigan State University, said that no apparent reduction in recruitment numbers was noted for the fall term. However, she already estimated a 10- to 20-percent decrease in the number of recruiters appearing on campus for the spring term — which began in January.

Rudd noted that employers are opting to post recruitment information through the MSU website to cut back on company costs. She said that while interview schedules for employers have often been delayed due to company uncertainty, most seek to maintain visibility in hopes of future greater hiring needs.

The Colleges of Arts and Sciences at Ohio State University reported a similar trend.

According to Jennifer Columber, the program assistant for the Arts and Sciences Career Services Office, 100 spots for employers were reserved for last year’s Spring Career Day with 40 other organizations on a waitlist. This year, the number of available positions has been reduced to 80, and only 70 have been confirmed so far for the April event.

Columber said that, unlike previous years, many of those businesses and employers are looking only to hire for internships, not full-time positions.

Despite the evident trend in recruitment numbers across universities, students looking to enter the job market or acquire an internship can pursue options for alternative businesses that do not necessarily coincide with their majors.

Lynne Sebille-White, the senior assistant director for employer relations at the University of Michigan’s Career Center, said students can still put their skill set and knowledge to use and work toward a career of interest albeit through less traditional paths.

Sebille-White, who oversees the recruiting system and works with employers who come to the University, mentioned how students seeking to become investors on Wall Street may do so through analytical positions at the corporate level in insurance organizations where numerical and monetary analysis is still applicable.

“If (students’) first choice industry isn’t hiring in record numbers right now, then they need to look at alternative options in the short-term,” she said.

Sebille-White said that positions in financial planning, fundraising and endowment management lend to marketable skills.

“The days of point-and-click job searching and just relying on campus interviews are shifting now,” she said. “Students need to be more creative in terms of how they’re seeking out opportunities.”

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