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College is over in Oklahoma — now what?

Students look for careers after college graduation
BY CARMEN FORMAN Modified: June 5, 2013 at 8:18 pm •  Published: June 6, 2013

Mitch Merckling graduated from the University of Oklahoma this spring with no job, no plan and a one-way ticket back to his parents' house in Texas.

He is not alone.

The college safety net was yanked out from under thousands of Oklahoma graduates last month and they have been thrust into the “real world” to get jobs and figure out their futures. So now comes the million dollar question for many: What's next?

“When I graduated, I didn't know where I was going to live, where I was going to work, if I was going to go to school, anything,” said Merckling, 22, a health and exercise science graduate. “I had absolutely no plan. I hadn't even applied to a job at that point.”

Not wanting to sign an apartment lease when he didn't know where he would be working, Merckling moved home to Plano.

“It's a huge adjustment going from your own place back to your parents' place,” he said. “It's like I can't take 10 steps without telling them where I'm going. It's like I'm back in high school.”

Start early

Students should start looking for permanent jobs at the beginning of senior year of college, said Philip Goodwin assistant director of Oklahoma State University career services. Most on-campus career fairs happen in the fall, and the businesses there are looking to hire fall and spring graduates, he said.

A survey conducted by Oklahoma State University showed that from any time between two weeks before graduation up to six months after the 2012 graduation (depending on when students filled out the survey), 18.6 percent of 2012 graduates were unemployed, while about 69 percent had found jobs, with 12.5 percent attending graduate or professional school.

The national unemployment rate for graduates in their 20s was 13.5 percent for students who earned bachelor's degrees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Amy Lecza, 22, from Bedford, N.H., is one of those unemployed students; but she saw job hunting as a chance for a change of scenery. After graduating from Oral Roberts University with a convergence journalism degree in May, Lecza moved to Chicago to find a job.

“I'll do what I have to do to pay rent, but I'm very hopeful that I'll be able to find a career,” she said.

When a high school friend said she was looking for another roommate for her Chicago apartment, Lecza jumped at the opportunity. Now Lecza is paying $300 a month in rent at her four-person apartment about five miles from downtown in Albany Park.

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