Ellen Stemle hopes to rewrite her love of literature into a rewarding career. Before you say "dream on," consider that the University of Utah graduate wants to be an educator and is qualified to teach English as a second language.
Stemle, who holds a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Utah, spent last week interviewing with Salt Lake County middle and high schools. Come fall, she hopes to be exciting teenagers about Shakespeare.
"It all depends on your field. Math jobs are easy to get," said Stemle, who grew up in Evanston, Wyo., and studied Renaissance literature during a study abroad in London.
Stemle and thousands of graduates like her are leaving Utah colleges this spring for a job market that is showing renewed signs of life. But nearly four years of high unemployment has glutted the market with recent college grads desperate for jobs that are relevant to their educations.
According to one national survey, the class of 2012 can breathe a little easier: Employers expect to hire 9.5 percent more college graduates this spring than last year, with the strongest hiring trends found in the Western and South Central regions, thanks in part to robust energy prices.
"It continues moving in a positive direction. It depends on the type of employers contained in each region," said Andrea Koncz, employment information manager with the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). "Engineering services were very positive; retailers had a bright outlook. Finance, insurance and real estate are positive."
Higher tuition, no jobs • But signs of trouble persist.
Half of young adults with bachelor's degrees remain jobless, underemployed or working in positions that don't use the knowledge and skills they acquired in college, according to an analysis of government data by The Associated Press.
Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University who analyzed the data, said students face a double whammy of rising tuition and poor job outcomes.
"Simply put, we're failing kids coming out of college," he told the AP. "We're going to need a lot better job growth and connections to the labor market, otherwise college debt will grow."
The AP report found that the Mountain West region has the highest rate of underemployment among recent college grads three in five.
Meanwhile, Forbes last week ranked Salt Lake City third among the nation's big cities in job growth. Promising local industries are in the life sciences, which needs workers to handle regulatory issues and device testing, and composites manufacturing, according to Jeff Edwards, executive director of the Economic Development Corp. of Utah. He noted that software leader Adobe Systems, which recently acquired Omniture, is building a Lehi campus expected to house up to 1,000 employees.
"They'll be looking to hire everything from computer engineering to back office support. That's a pretty broad brush," Edwards said. "Look for opportunities to gain experience on a broad level even if that's not what's in your mind when you get your degree."
The U.'s Career Services office has postings for 554 jobs in its database.
"Here in Utah we are seeing an ever-increasing number of employers saying we have great jobs for students," said office director Stan Inman, who singled out eBay and Goldman-Sachs as national firms eager to hire Utah grads.
"Majors across the board are getting attention, and it is worth noting that this survey shows that employers seek the best talent, regardless of the student's major," Inman said. "Time and again, I am reminded that employers look for individuals who can solve problems and manage priorities."
His office is hosting "Extreme Hiring Makeover" during the week of May 14, offering workshops in rÃ©sumÃ© writing, networking and interviewing. While hiring is up from last year, success finding work will more likely come to those who spent their undergraduate years building networks, interning and flexing leadership skills.
Success stories • U. graduate Jonathan Hill, who majored in mass communication, parlayed his internship with Saxton|Horne Advertising into a full-time job managing social media.
"If I didn't have already have a job I would be kind of skeptical" of getting hired, Hill said last week while picking up his cap and gown at the campus store. Many of the open positions in new media he looked at required job experience, he said.
Students leveraging internships into jobs, a process known as "conversion," hit an all-time high of nearly 59 percent this year, according to NACE.
"A lot more employers are using internships as a tool to recruit new graduates," Koncz said. "The students get a taste of working for the company, and the company gets a taste for how the student performs."
Some new grads are already in business for themselves, such as the U.'s Chelsea Sloan, co-founder of the fashion retailer franchise Uptown Cheapskate, and Westminster College marketing major Chris Ciancone, who is developing an inhaler for asthma medicine.
U. honors student Madison Hajeb, 21, compressed her undergraduate and graduate studies into four years, leaving commencement ceremonies Friday with a master's degree in information systems. A busy networker, she has already secured employment as digital marketing manager at MagicSpace Entertainment, a Salt Lake City company that stages Broadway-style theatrical productions. She will be responsible for search-engine optimization.
Information systems, a degree administered by the U. business school, is a growing field that helps organizations manage the mountains of digitized data that have come to characterize all corners of the economy.
"It has a lot of freedom to go in different directions with it. I don't have to go to a big corporation. I can work for a small company that puts on theatrical production, I can make it what I want to make it," said Hajeb, a 2008 Skyline High graduate.
Another honors graduate, Eduardo Reyes-Chavez, expects to eventually go to law school, but first will intern this summer in Belgium with the European Parliament and look for work when he gets back. A major in political science, he said he has offers pending from Salt Lake City law firms and the U., which is interested in hiring him as an admissions counselor.
Ellen Stemle wasn't expecting to know about a job until July. But on Wednesday, she got an offer to teach language arts at West Hills Middle School in West Jordan.
"I'm so excited and never imagined that I would graduate with a job lined up," she wrote in an email. "I truly think my U of U education set me apart, as my new principal expressed to me that I was ahead of the game concerning things like my ePortfolio and ESL endorsement, all things which my professors so diligently supported and required of me."