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I was reading the excellent New York Times blog The Choice this morning and was happy when I read the top headline. A City Council Asks Washington to Forgive Student Loans. Jacques Steinberg explains:

In explaining its action, the council noted in its resolution that “the average debts of students graduating with loans rose from $18,796 in 2006 to $20,098 in 2007, according to the Project on Student Debt.” The Council argued that “forgiving student loan debt would have a stimulating effect on the economy.”

Specifically, the resolution imagines how “responsible people who did nothing other than pursue a higher education would have hundreds, if not thousands of extra dollars per month to spend, fueling the economy,” and that, “as a result, tax revenues would go up, the credit markets will unfreeze and jobs will be created.”

Now, you might not agree with the council, and you might have ideological problems with that kind of debt forgiveness. I think one of the best results of this issue being raised is that it brings the issue of student loans to the forefront. I talked about the issue a bit a few posts ago, and think it’s worth bringing up again.

I know my fair share of friends whose loan debt is way above $20,098. In fact, so many that I almost want to call shenanigans on that figure, but whatever. So, students, graduates, and anyone else–what do you think about this? Is a complete or partial debt forgiveness the way to go? Would it affect how you looked for a job? For example, if you suddenly had no loan debt, would  you be willing to take a job that paid less? I’m curious to hear your thoughts!

As you get near the professional world and hear news of how gloomy the job market is, I’m sure you’re panicky. Don’t fret-there is some good news!

A new CareerBuilder survey completed in June finds that 48 percent of workers who were laid off from full-time jobs in the last three months have found new full-time positions, an increase from 41 percent in March. An additional 3 percent found part-time positions; down from 8 percent in the previous survey.

“Despite a challenging job market, workers have been able to find employment opportunities in a variety of fields,” said Brent Rasmussen, President of CareerBuilder North America. “Even though the number of workers who took part-time positions is tracking below last quarter, the number who found full-time jobs is notably higher. This is a positive indication that more workers who were laid off from full-time jobs were able to replace them with new full-time positions instead of taking part-time work as an interim measure to generate income. Part of this job search success is related to workers expanding career options to new industries and locations.”

Changes in Pay
Looking at workers who were laid off in the last 12 months and found new jobs, more than half (56 percent) reported they were able to negotiate comparable or higher pay for their new positions. Forty-four percent of workers took a pay cut, down from 49 percent in March.

Transferring Skills to Other Industries and Fields
Workers reported they are applying their skills to new areas. Similar to the last survey, 38 percent of workers who were laid off in the last 12 months and landed new jobs said they found work in a different field than where they were previously employed. Of those workers, the majority said they really enjoy their new positions.

Relocation
Workers are no longer just looking for positions in their own backyards. One-in-five workers (20 percent) who were laid off in the last 12 months and found jobs relocated to a new city or state; up from 13 percent in March. Of those who are still looking for employment, 44 percent reported they would consider relocating for a job opportunity; up from 39 percent in March.

Starting a Business
An increased number of job seekers have adopted an “if you can’t find a job, create one” way of thinking. Nearly three-in-ten workers (29 percent) who have not found jobs are considering starting their own business; up from 25 percent in March.

Altering Appearance
The competition for a smaller number of jobs is driving some workers to alter their everyday appearances in hopes of making a stronger impression. More than a quarter (28 percent) of workers who were laid off in the last 12 months said they have changed their appearance to make themselves more attractive to potential employers. Fourteen percent said they have lost weight, 8 percent have changed their hair color or hairstyle and 5 percent are dressing to appear younger. Teeth whitening, enhanced makeup and cosmetic procedures were also cited.

Comparing genders, both men and women indicated making changes to their appearances in hopes of appealing to potential employers, at 26 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

You and I know internships are great. They give you experience, teach you new things, expose you to valuable contacts and often count for course credit. Overall, internships are something you want.

So I wasn’t terribly surprised to see this article posted on The New York Times site the other day about companies having plenty of interns, but not enough chairs. Writer Simon Akam talks to interns at a Brooklyn law firm to see how they’re dealing with an unusually crowded workplace. He points out that the law firm has 60 more interns this summer than it did in 2008′s summer.

The bumper crop of interns, whose placements end July 31, is the result of an increase in both applications and the percentage of students who accepted offers, most likely a fallout of the recession, as many corporate law firms have cut back on their summer programs. In addition to the intensified competition to score a full-time — and paid — job after graduation, the intern glut has put a premium on office chairs, desk space and meaty assignments.

As a result, not all interns feel like they’re getting the experience and responsibility they signed on for. That’s an interesting sentiment in a time when employees seem to be spread thin and complaints of being overworked are commonplace.

On the flip side, over in Austin, a city known for its music is making good use of its interns, according to the Austin Business Journal. This article on music business interns finds these students with more than enough work to do. Students at a community college are helping independent musicians and venues with press releases and managerial tasks involved with the business.

“They have to take accounting and marketing and small business management because a lot of them are going to have to start their own companies,” he said. “We set them up to do business, whether they want to be a musician, manager or concert promoter.”

Bobruk’s intern, Indra Hernandez, said she’s enjoyed working for an independent musician.

“I’ve learned a lot, from writing press releases to talking to people in the industry. It’s been an eye-opening experience,” Hernandez said.

What does this mean for someone looking for an internships? First, this is proof that they’re out there and employers are eager to have you. Also, if you want to expand your skill set, then don’t be afraid to reach out to companies or small businesses  that aren’t the usual destinations for interns. If you’re one of a dozen interns in a single department, you’re competing just to get an assignment. That means the odds of you being offered a permanent positions could dwindle, too.

That’s not to say going with another employer is guaranteed to land you a permanent position, but at least you’ll have an enviable amount of experience to boast about when other people spent their summer making copies.

Part of the appeal of an internship is the opportunity to parlay it into something bigger and better. For some students, an internship is a necessity for a class, earning an advanced degree or finding a job in the industry. For other students, it’s a way to network and get your foot in the door of  a company. The latter group often hopes their time as interns also serves as an extended audition for the company that could become a job. I’d imagine any student, especially now, would like to have a job lined up before graduation rolls around–if not sooner.

Dr. Joanne G. Sujansky, CSP, and Dr. Jan Ferri-Reed have written a new book that can help you out. It’s titled The Millennials: Why Companies Are Losing Billions in Turnover to This Generation-And What to Do about It. Millennials, also known as Generation Y-ers, are up against some stiff competition from other job seekers of all ages, and Sujansky and Ferri-Reed have some tips for interns looking to make the most of their stints.

Some of these tips might work for you, some might not. Once you know your company’s culture and your boss’s work style, work with them to bolster your credentials and become a better worker. Here are what Sujansky and Ferri-Reed suggest:

Find opportunities to expand your experience when interning (offer to help in other areas if you have completed your assignments, tactfully make recommendations or give suggestions when you see an opportunity to improve or enhance something, volunteer to do “extra” duties, etc.)

Keep a daily journal to reflect your activities and accomplishments for each day

Ask for feedback  – formal reviews on what you have done well and what you can enhance

Conduct more research on the company – find out how the company makes money and indicate how you may be able to make a further contribution

Find someone that you respect, observe how he/she does business, ask for advice or feedback from that person on what you can do to make a stronger impact

Ask colleagues for others in the organization that may want to meet you and to know about your skills – or others who may be interested in providing you with career advice

Capture your accomplishments by updating your resume

If you’re currently interning or have had experienced in this field, share your thoughts with us! Have you seen any of these tips work for someone?

I would be lying if I said I’ve never had money woes. The college years were especially tough. It wasn’t unusual for my friends and I to pool our money to split a pizza…or something from the dollar menu of a burger joint.

This–shall we say less than appealing–economy is making plenty of people feel a financial pinch. They’re looking for new ways to earn some extra cash. A CareerBuilder survey found that 10 percent of workers began working a second job in the last year in order to supplement their income.

A new survey asked workers to list some of the most unusual ways they earned extra money. There are some of the most entertaining responses.

  • Used a portable propane burner to heat oil, and sold catfish dinners on his front porch
  • Made Star Wars costumes for people
  • Donated blood plasma
  • Researched stories for a gossip columnist
  • Won money on a game show
  • Juggled chainsaws in a talent competition
  • Posed for an art class
  • Worked as a tarot card reader
  • Wrote a freelance article on Big Foot
  • Took notes in class for college students
  • Took items from the Lost & Found and sold them online
  • Gave people in the office hair cuts
  • Tested recipes for a book
  • Worked as a movie extra
  • Participated in product testing for bandages
  • Played in Poker tournaments
  • Participated in university research studies

Aaaaah, college. The place that teaches you just how much pizza one person can consume in a single week. The place where you learned that one red shirt can, in fact, ruin an entire load of laundry. The period of your life when you find out just what your limit is on having an obnoxious roommate. It’s a life changer, college is.

Just as essential to the experience, at least for many students, is the ritual of taking out student loans. Say “FAFSA” and students will cringe at adding to their debt, yet run wildly to fill out the form each year to get survival money. ‘Tis life.

Apparently, it’s becoming a more expensive one. I came across this article in Wichita Business Journal that discusses “Drowning in Debt: The Emerging Student Loan Crisis,” a new release from the think tank Education Sector. Kelly Johnson breaks down some of the findings from the analysis, and one that sticks out is the following:

Borrowing has gone from being the exception for undergraduates in 1993, at only 32 percent, to the rule. As of 2008, more than 50 percent of students at public four-year universities borrowed for their education. In for-profit education, the percentage of borrowers went to 92 percent in 2008 from 53 percent in 1993.

Why do I tell you this? Not to be a Debbie Downer, I promise. And not to say you shouldn’t take out student loans or that you need to only think about making a ton of money when you graduate. Instead, I point this out and encourage you to read the article because every student should be aware of their financial situation. Even if you’re like most college students and that financial situation is, well, dour because you’re focusing on your studies and not on raking in the dough.

When you’re looking for a job after graduation you should see if your employer has any type of loan repayment plan or will pay some or all of the tuition for you to earn another degree. Also, in some industries (often education and social work) your employer (often the government) will pay off your loans after you’ve worked a certain job for 10 years or more. There are these opportunities out there for you to look at. I recommend doing your research because each industry has its own opportunities and it’s just one factor worth considering when you’re looking for work.

The bad news: We’re still in a recession. A bad one.
The good news: Most employers don’t plan to decrease staffs.

In the upcoming months (Q3), most surveyed employers expect their staff levels to remain the same as recruiting patterns hold steady and job losses trend downward, according to a new survey by CareerBuilder and USA TODAY’s.

The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive among more than 2,600 hiring managers and human resource professionals, predicts several emerging trends in hiring, compensation and how employers are dealing with the effects of the economic downturn.

“The latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that job loss is moderating, a trend that will hopefully continue in the second half of the year as the financial system and economy move toward recovery,” said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder.  “Though we’re headed in the right direction, we’re not likely to experience significant movement in job creation in 2009.  Jobs will be added, but overall, businesses will continue to be conservative in their hiring and maintain focus on existing human capital.  Sixty-eight percent of employers said they don’t anticipate any change in their full-time, permanent headcount in the third quarter.”

Click here to read the full report.

What does this mean for you? Well, if you have a job, you can feel a little confident that bosses aren’t planning to drastically cut their staff. If you’re looking, there’s hope! As long as you have employers who need to keep staff levels at a certain point,  you have a better shot at finding work.

Of course, we all know it’s a tough time and we’re working hard to stay employer or get a job. So no one’s saying Q3 will be easy, but it’s a start.

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