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Career fair spooks college students

'It's really scary," concludes one student after this year's scaled-back event at the UW's Bothell campus.

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By Amy Rolph
Herald Writer
Published:
  • Mark Mulligan / The Herald
University of Washington Bothell senior Kevin Nitta, 21, speaks with a representative from Bright Horizons, a child-care pr...

    Mark Mulligan / The Herald University of Washington Bothell senior Kevin Nitta, 21, speaks with a representative from Bright Horizons, a child-care provider, about employment opportunities during a career fair Tuesday afternoon at the University of Washington Bothell. Nitta, who is majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies, is looking for work experience before pursuing his teaching certification.

  • University of Washington-Bothell freshman Max Shipley speaks with representatives from Verizon about available part-time positions as a credit represe...

    Mark Mulligan / The Herald

    University of Washington-Bothell freshman Max Shipley speaks with representatives from Verizon about available part-time positions as a credit representative with the company. Shipley is searching for a sales job that will give him more experience with a larger company and a job where he can work more hours this summer.

Law school, medical school -- maybe the Peace Corps: They're all looking pretty appealing these days.
That's what a wave of well-dressed, resume-toting college students joked as they left a career fair at the University of Washington's Bothell campus Tuesday afternoon.
The fair -- about half the size it was last year -- underscored what most students already knew about the Puget Sound-region's job market.
"It's scary. It's really scary," said Aditi Shah, an accounting major who plans to graduate in December.
Shah hopes the financial sector will grow new legs by that time, but she's not as optimistic as some of her classmates.
"You put so much money into school, and then you don't know if you're going to be able to find a job," she said.
In a friendlier job market, Shah might have found a good job at the UW career fair Tuesday. One of roughly 30 employers represented was the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's audit division.
Staff auditors fresh from college can expect to earn nearly $60,000 by their third year, said auditor Teri Kirkpatrick, who talked with students Tuesday.
The problem is, the local audit office doesn't have an opening right now, she said. But that doesn't mean Kirkpatrick wasn't taking names and resumes.
"We continually collect resumes," she said. "Because we just had a job close two weeks ago doesn't mean we won't have one in a few months."
A lot of employers are onboard the "we're not hiring right now" boat.
Last spring, the Bothell campus's career fair was a two-day event that featured twice as many employers.
And reason for the participation drop-off isn't a big secret.
"It kind of reflects the region's need for employees at this time," said university spokeswoman Elizabeth Fischtziur.
That means job hunting is tough -- and that there's a good reason why Nathan Hatfield, a UW-Bothell senior, wasn't looking too stressed out when he left the job fair Tuesday.
"I'm going to law school next year,' he said. "I'm lucky."
Senior Kevin Nitta wants to work with kids -- eventually as a teacher -- but so far, he's hit some roadblocks. The biggest one: when former employees who have been laid off elsewhere come back to see about their old jobs -- and go straight to the front of the interview line.
"I've been putting in applications everywhere, and doing interviews," Nitta said.
So far, no one has opted to hire a college kid when they could have someone who already has experience, he said.
Lynda West, who heads up UW-Bothell's career center, is telling students that jobs are there; they just have to start looking early and be persistent. She said the center hasn't had any trouble placing students in internships, many of which tend to be unpaid.
But while unpaid internships are fine for summer work, they don't appeal to everyone. Eric Campbell graduated from Gonzaga University several years ago but was scouting out job opportunities Tuesday along with UW seniors.
A pink slip from Starbucks hasn't dulled his rosy outlook on state unemployment rates, which reached 9.2 percent in March.
"Everyone I know is employed, so it can't be that bad," he said.
Campbell, who wants to work in marketing, talked with a few financial services companies, and said he felt optimistic about his chances.
Ameriprise Financial and First Investors were among the companies courting potential employees Tuesday, as were Macy's, Safeway, Verizon Wireless and Walgreens.
But even if those companies weren't appealing to everyone, the afternoon couldn't have been a complete waste. Representatives of Portland-based Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream were at the job fair looking for merchandisers to stock stores, and next to their table was a retail-sized freezer full of ice cream bars.
And even if you weren't interested in schlepping pallets of frozen desserts over the summer, the ice cream was free.

Amy Rolph: 425-339-3029 or arolph@heraldnet.com.

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