Originally Posted: May 24, 2016
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, the denizens of Southern Methodist University’s campus seemed to move at a leisurely pace.
A few cyclists clicked along the pathways and the stately brick buildings, with their bright white colonnades, were quiet. Commencement had taken place a few days earlier.
But for Regina James, the busy season was getting into full swing.
“There are still students who are in transition. They’re either waiting to hear back about offers — there’s a little anxiousness there — or they’re students that maybe just didn’t get around to the search, so they’re starting to reach out and say, ‘I don’t have anything yet,’” she said. “Those students, we’ll be helping throughout the summer.”
James is the associate director for employer relations at SMU’s Hegi career center.
Experts say newly-minted college graduates in the Dallas area are entering one of the best job markets they’ve seen. But James said that’s no excuse to slack off in the hunt.
“We encourage students to have multiple internships for a number of reasons,” she said. “You’ve got to think about it as, not only are you competing against your peers here, you’re competing against peers from other institutions in the area, you’re competing against institutions nationally [whose students] may desire to live in the Dallas area.”
According to a report by the firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, 1.8 million Americans with four-year degrees are expected to enter the workforce this year, where they’ll be greeted by the best job market for college graduates in several years.
The report cites the fact that the nation has seen almost 70 months of job gains, meaning that 14 million workers have been added to payrolls across the country. Meanwhile, Baby Boomers are retiring.
A National Association of Colleges and Employers survey found that companies are slated to hire 5.2 percent more new graduates than a year ago.
And, the report says, 59 metro areas have unemployment rates below 4.0 percent.
All of those factors add up to a demand for workers who are ready to start their careers.
In Dallas-Fort Worth — one of those metro areas with a low unemployment rate — there’s extra momentum, said Bud Weinstein, an economist and associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute at SMU’s Cox School of Business.
The region’s economy is more diverse than it’s ever been. And more companies are relocating or expanding in North Texas — in part because they’re attracted by the area’s talent pool.
“Dallas-Fort Worth probably has the strongest job market in the nation among large metropolitan areas — maybe not in absolute numbers, but certainly in percentage terms,” Weinstein said. “I think the job market has never looked better, particularly for college graduates.”
Michael Carroll, director of UNT’s Economics Research Group, added that although energy and manufacturing jobs across the state are hurting, “we’re fairly insulated from that” in North Texas.
A flood of migration into the state, Carroll said, has also helped keep wages at a manageable level and competition for workers from scaring off new jobs.
“I think it’s a real positive with all the companies moving in,” he said.
Higher education institutions around the region say they’re bullish on the possibilities for their graduates — whether they’re armed with a bachelor’s degree or trade certification.
“I cannot even tell you — we’re tripping over jobs,” said Dawn Gomez, career services coordinator at the Dallas County Community College District’s Northlake College in Irving.
The hard part, she said, is connecting students with the right employer in an age when job hunters have countless online resources.
“Soft skills, communication, critical thinking, teamwork — employers want those that can pull it all together in a composed, succinct package,” Gomez said.
For Morgan Slottje, who graduated from SMU in December, settling on a career path wasn’t easy.
As an undergraduate, she said with a chuckle, she changed majors “at least 10 times.”
Throughout college, she also test drove various jobs through internships: She worked on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, she worked in marketing.
When the time came to focus on the job search, Slottje, 23, applied to “hundreds” of jobs she said sounded interesting, from advertising to financial analysis. She considered getting a master’s degree in statistics.
In the end, Slottje said she went to a Deloitte presentation and felt a strong sense that its values aligned with hers: An emphasis on continuing to learn and grow.
“I picked a company where their values really align with mine,” she said. “That’s important with the job search — I want a career. I want to love what I’m doing.”
And although Slottje said she was open to moving to another city, she preferred to stay in Dallas, close to her parents and where living costs are more manageable than in New York, where she went to school for 2 and a half years before switching to SMU.
“I’d rather be in a city like Dallas when I’m starting a career,” she said. “I’m versed in tech, but when I was interviewing [with a company in the] Bay Area, I was thinking, ‘No matter what I’m getting paid, I’m going to be so poor.’”
She’ll be starting a job here, in business technology consulting at Deloitte in July.
Reggie Davis, a 21-year-old University of North Texas logistics student, won’t graduate until next year.
He said he’s optimistic about his job prospects, particularly in logistics. In D-FW, information technology and other “knowledge” jobs that require college degrees are in high demand, particularly given the breadth of the region’s transportation industry.
His father, too, works in logistics, meaning he’s had exposure to the jobs for years.
Nevertheless, Davis said he’s not cruising to graduation day.
For one thing, UNT’s logistics program requires that students intern before they graduate, so he’ll be working at Schneider Logistics this summer.
Davis is also participating in the school’s professional leadership program, which aims to prep students for business leadership with access to mentors and professional development opportunities.
He said that although he’s been around supply chain and logistics work — it’s what his dad does, too — he sees the internship as both a way to get an edge and to test out which specific type of job he might like best.
“If I end up doing well in the internship and enjoying it, I would be glad to consider a full-time position or transition to being a full-time employee,” he said. “But I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket.” READ MORE