DALLAS — Christine Nicholson worked in marketing for several years before she returned to college to realize a dream: to become a television news reporter.
The Euless, Texas, resident will graduate from the University of Texas-Arlington on May 12. Being a veteran of the workforce, she is prepared: She is an intern at a local television station and lined up an interview with a station in Sherman, Texas.
“I’ve been sending out résumés and visiting every news station in the area — even those up to two hours away,” Nicholson, 36, said. “The one thing I’ve been told is that it’s competitive.”
As the job market slowly returns from the depths of the recession, many industries are once again hiring. Soon-to-be graduates and those just out of work have room for optimism. But, as Nicholson has learned, it’s competitive.
The U.S. economy has added almost 800,000 jobs since December, allowing job seekers a slowly rising confidence that the economic recovery is under way, even if it is taking its sweet time.
Unemployment edged down to 8.2 percent nationally in March and 30 states recorded decreases in unemployment rates.
Not always obvious
No matter the field, there are good prospects for job-seekers who know how to look, according to those eyeing the market.
Cheri Butler, who runs the Career Center at UT-Arlington, says students and job seekers sometimes miss the obvious.
An architectural student might find open positions are scarce at the several dozen architectural firms in Dallas-Fort Worth. But they might find manufacturers, medical centers, airports or transportation companies hiring those professionals.
“You have to look in the industries that are hiring,” Butler said. “It’s not always obvious.”
The federal openings are expected in medical and public health (54,000 expected openings from 2010 through 2012), security and protection (52,000 openings), compliance and enforcement (31,000 openings) and administration and program management (17,300 openings).
Butler said that companies seeking workers most recently are in the health care, technology, some construction and various business management areas.
“Supply chain-logistics,” she said. “Huge.”
‘It’s not easy’
That the health care field is hiring is good news to Tina Mendez, who taught pre-kindergarten in Dallas schools until she was laid off in December. She is now searching for a job in education or health care, where she is certified as a nurse assistant.
“It’s not easy,” she said in April, adding that she is having trouble finding a job that will meet her salary expectations.
“It’s slower than everybody wants it to be, but it’s steady,” said Theresa Maher, vice president of media affairs at Jobing.com, a website that lists job openings.
“Baby boomers are retiring in droves,” Butler said.
That should be encouraging for Britton Carmony, 24, who will soon graduate from El Centro College of the Dallas County Community College District and wants a job as a social worker with child protective services, a nursing home or children with special needs. She is now working part time at Homeward Bound, a substance abuse treatment facility.
“It’s not the best-paying job, but I’m sticking it out because it will look good on my résumé.”
Of course, the experts suggest that, as Nicholson and Carmony have done, students and applicants should have experience in their chosen field.
Erick Baez, 23, a culinary arts student at El Centro, is working part time at Whole Foods Market while he finishes school.
“It’s what I enjoy right now,” he said, adding that he may consider management positions after he’s served some time in the kitchen. “Restaurants and hotels and resorts want to hire people who already have experience.”
Perhaps the most effective job preparation tactic used is by those who have returned to school to freshen up skills, redirect their career arc or get the training they’ve always felt they needed.
Kristin Carter, 29, and Elizabeth Rose, 32, both of Arlington, Texas, and Kimberlee Williams, 40, of Grand Prairie, Texas, have all returned to school to get their registered nurse certification after working as health aides, nursing assistants or other health care jobs.
“This stint has taken almost three years,” Williams said of her career redirection away from teaching.
“It’s a calling to a different kind of service.”
Some new graduates may have to take lesser-skilled jobs that pay less in order to make ends meet, according to a recent analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
That analysis found that nationally half of college graduates under age 25 are unemployed or underemployed for their skills, according to the analysis performed by Northwestern University for The Associated Press. That data was also supplemented by material from Paul Harrington, an economist at Drexel University, and the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank.