Graduates feel first barbs of competitive job market

Thousands of college graduates will finish their last set of exams next month and pour into a crowded work force.

Those hoping to land a job in Mesa County will have plenty of competition, considering nearly one in 10 county residents is looking for a job, too.

Kelly Mugford, a 22-year-old business student at Mesa State College, said she attended a job interview recently in Glenwood Springs. Five hundred people showed up to apply for 37 jobs.

“I’ve been told by employers that my degree doesn’t mean anything,” Mugford said.

“I’ve been told a bachelor’s means you have the knowledge, not the experience,” fellow business student Chris Brown said.

Brown, 25, also plans to graduate from Mesa State in May. He has had one job interview this spring.

“It was a group interview, and I was the youngest in the group by at least 15 years,” he said.

Brown said most of his fellow applicants had a bachelor’s degree and several held master’s degrees. Mugford said people with more degrees or experience can make a post-college job search tough, so she is talking to people she knows in her chosen field and hoping to network her way into a job.

Mesa State senior T.J. Montoya, 22, said he’s sharpening his interview skills to impress employers.

“You have to come to the interview and act like you want the job,” Montoya said.

Jerome Gonzales, president and CEO of professional services firm JGMS, said not everyone follows that advice. He said he’s had young applicants come to job interviews wearing flip-flops and torn jeans and acting disinterested in a career.

“We’re hiring the cream of the crop,” Gonzales said. “If you don’t want a job, don’t come see us.”

Gonzales was one of 21 panelists who spoke about business issues during hour-long informational sessions Wednesday morning at Entrepreneurship Day at Mesa State College. The free sessions covered topics ranging from social networking to securing Small Business Association funding.

One session also covered the local economy. Presenters Ann Driggers of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, Mesa County Workforce Center Supervisor Gilbert Lujan and Business Incubator Center Director Chris Reddin said increases in foreclosure numbers and the local unemployment rate may sound bad, but there are some reasons to stay optimistic.

Lujan said the workforce center had 104 job applicants for every job order available in December. As of Wednesday, the ratio was down to 62 to 1.

Foreclosure rates are up, Driggers said, but they were low to start with in Mesa County. Driggers added low prices on real estate and property may mean bad news for Realtors, but it’s good news for buyers.

“There are silver linings in and amongst the horrible headlines,” she said.


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