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Despite Economy, Experts Advise Students to Major in What Interests Them

Despite Economy, Experts Advise Students to Major in What Interests Them

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

When Carter Schimpff enrolled at Texas Christian University four years ago, he began work on what he thought was a marketable degree: a bachelor of business administration with a major in finance and a minor in real estate. At the time, housing markets were booming, and millions of dollars were being made in the investment and mortgage industries.

No one has to tell Schimpff how much the economy has changed. After sending his resume or filling out applications for 250 to 300 positions since March, he is still looking for a full-time job. A bookstore even turned him down for a cashier’s job, saying he was overqualified.

“You go to college so you can get a job. I never figured a degree would preclude you from getting a job,” he said. The best he could do was landing a part-time job just weeks ago as a door-to-door roofing salesman.

Mindful of the worst job market in more than 25 years, many students enrolling in colleges and universities this fall are considering majors that they believe will land them stable careers.

Students with degrees in nursing, health care, accounting, computer science, economics, general science and engineering report the most success in finding jobs, say local and national experts and college placement officials. Those with degrees in finance, journalism, graphic design, and international relations have had tougher times. Liberal arts graduates also struggle.

Still, career experts say students should major in whatever area most interests them, even if it’s a less specialized liberal arts field, such as English or sociology. In a national survey, communication, followed closely by a strong work ethic and teamwork skills, was rated as the most important attribute sought by employers.

“One of the things that I have always said is liberal arts teaches you how to learn,” said Dan Naegeli, director of the University of North Texas career center. “When you go out into the world of work, you’re going to have to continue to learn.”

Texas Health Resources, one of the region’s largest employers, uses a wide range of workers at its 14 hospitals and other sites. The 18,000-employee company hires about 2,000 people a year.

It looks for candidates with “promise behaviors,” recruitment manager Justin Clem said.

“The resume is great. … Education is wonderful,” Clem said. “But when we interview, we really want to look at situations they were put into in the past, what actions they took, and what were the results. Do those results really support treating other people with courtesy, dignity and respect? And communicating clearly and earning people’s trust? And thinking before they act?”

The company also looks for people who have a record of providing outstanding service, said Janelle Browne, vice president of human resources. If a student mowed lawns or worked in a fast-food restaurant, she said, "the things that we would want to hear is how you attended to providing service to the people that you were working with and how you were attending to the quality of the product that you have.

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