Despite falling unemployment, Northwestern students struggle to find work in Chicago

Junnie Kwon, Reporter

Although new reports show unemployment rates decreased in Chicago last month, some Northwestern seniors preparing for graduation are still facing difficulties in their job searches.

Over the past year, Chicago’s unemployment rate fell from 9.3 percent in December 2011 to 8.6 last month. However, the city’s rate still remains above the national average, according to the Chicago Tribune.

These lagging unemployment rates pose a problem for NU students looking for jobs in the Chicagoland area, said Jim O’Brien, director of Medill Career Services.

“While these national rates, plus the local rates, are getting better and help our students, the landscape for job hunting is still a challenging one,” he said.

The job search process has been difficult for Weinberg senior Jonathan Kaplan, who is currently looking for a job in the finance industry. He said although CareerCat, an online job and internship database available to NU students, is a convenient way to send resumes to prospective employers, the response rate has been low for him.

“But at the same time, it’s easy for everyone else to do it,” he said. “It would be nicer for someone like me who doesn’t have strong (GPA) numbers to get some opportunity and interest. In the old days, if I had called someone up, I would have had a better chance.”

Kaplan said he is considering a job at a proprietary trading company where he said he would have to work the late-night shift from 10 p.m. until 8 a.m., when trading markets in Asia are active. He said he became more flexible with what he was looking for during his job search.

On the other hand, other NU students have successfully found jobs in their top preferences. Weinberg senior Joyce Chen is set to work at LEK Consulting after she graduates. However, she acknowledged the job search was laborious and partially attributes her success to luck.

“I was at some point worried that I wasn’t going to get a job,” she said. “That was definitely a fear that was in the back of my mind.”

Although her search was successful, Chen estimated only about half of her acquaintances looking for jobs experienced the same good fortune. The general mood among her peers leading up to graduation has been affected by the competitive job market, she said.

“From what I’ve heard, it does seem somewhat discouraged,” she said. “Outside the pool of people who have gotten jobs already, there is definitely some apprehension.”

Looking ahead, Kaplan said he plans to continue pursuing his preferred career with full force and remains optimistic.

“I didn’t quite expect it to be this difficult because it wasn’t that hard to find an internship,” he said. “But if it’s something you really work at and spend a lot of time on, you’re going to be okay.”