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As job market shrinks, so do college grads’ grand plans

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Even large companies that are typically on the lookout for new grads are pulling back this year. At the University of Wisconsin, Platteville, a number of students who thought they had their jobs all lined up found out shortly before their December graduation that companies such as Caterpillar were rescinding offers. Because some large companies make offers a semester or more in advance, “the way the economy took a turn, unfortunately it caught them off guard,” says Diana Trendt, interim director of UW’s career center. Some of the graduates have since found other jobs, she says.

Students elsewhere are also considering new options. A career fair for nonprofit and public-service companies hosted by Wellesley College near Boston attracted 420 students – about 100 more than last year.

“Maybe students feel more of a sense of permission to pursue [these sorts of jobs] now than when there were lots and lots of highly paid finance jobs that were pretty tempting,” says Joanne Murray, director of Wellesley’s Center for Work & Service. She also sees more soon-to-be graduates eyeing opportunities to spend time abroad, working or volunteering.

Not just for new grads

Career centers are also expecting more alumni to come back for job-search help. “They came of age ... with a different set of expectations, and they’ve been caught short,” Ms. Murray says.

Adam Brierley earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology in December from the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, and he’s come to the nonprofit fair in search of a job or even an unpaid internship. “It’s very hard without much work experience,” he says, noting that while he was working to pay for college he didn’t have time for internships. Now he’s living with his parents and says he’ll just “roll with the punches.”

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