Perks like bonuses, eye-popping trips to corporate headquarters and the name-your-salary days are mostly gone in the flatter economy of 2001, say those in close touch with the job market here, where unemployment remained low at 4.3 percent in January for the metropolitan St. Louis area.
In the right careers, demand remains strong. Don't be misled by stories about massive layoffs in big computer and high-tech companies.
Take nursing. Debbie Deppong, a registered nurse and campus recruiter for BJC Health Care, made several potentially promising contacts Wednesday at a job fair at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Like a lot of recruiters at the fair, she'd be thrilled to find one or two good hires.
It was one of many such fairs she will hit this hiring season within a 200-mile radius of St. Louis as she tries to fill the nursing shortage and jobs in technical fields for the giant health care corporation.
Depending upon the field, Deppong can try to tempt prospective hires with starting yearly salaries around $28,000 for four-year nursing grads or $36,000 for highly qualified radiology technicians.
Deppong says nursing grads with excellent grades and a strong work ethic are in a good position.
"They definitely can be choosy," she said. "They have lots of choices" among local and regional hospitals and health care centers.
So it is with other "hot" jobs, such as retail management, information systems management, all fields of engineering, construction management and computer science.
"If you have computer experience, you'll find a good job," said Jean Paterson, director of SIUE's career development office.
Out with the old . . .
While the economy may be softening in certain sectors such as high-tech, one cannot generalize. Many companies seem to be cutting operating costs by giving early retirements in the upper ranks while continuing to hire at starting salaries.
As Paterson said, "I'm hearing from employers that they are doing their layoffs at the upper levels, so there aren't a lot of new jobs."
She cited SBC, the parent of Southwestern Bell, Ameritech and other telecommunications companies, as an example of a corporation that is hiring plenty of young grads at the same time it's cutting its middle-management ranks by the hundreds.
A recruiter confirmed that SBC was looking to fill "dozens of openings" at the fair for jobs in information technology, marketing, sales, finance and accounting.
Teachers for elementary and secondary schools are in demand, too.
Paterson said 50 districts -- a doubling of last year's showing -- attended a teachers job fair Thursday. Deborah Kettler, the career director at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, expects 90 school districts and education-related organizations from across the country to set up booths at a teachers job fair on the UMSL campus next week. Another hot field these days is retail management, be it at a Target store or a Steak 'n Shake restaurant.
Wanted: Strong Work Ethic
Lisa Schemenauer, the restaurant chain's top recruiter here, stood before her booth Wednesday, answering questions in a brisk, businesslike manner. Because Steak 'n Shake is expanding, it's moving beyond mainly promoting its grill operators. Now it's looking for graduates with a variety of degrees, from English literature to business.
"We're looking for people who can develop other people," Schemenauer said. "We want to grow people who will be able to manage several stores. ... It takes a special person to manage 50 to 70 people."
A strong work ethic is valuable at the company, as it is for many jobs. And that has to come through on the resume and in the quick, stand-up interview at the fair. The range of hiring salaries is $28,000 to $40,000 a year, Schemenauer said, but the demands are tough and the hours are long.
"We can teach you anything at Steak 'n Shake, but we can't teach you work ethics," she said.
Likewise for Target, the large discount retailer, whose brochure at the job fair said the chain would operate more than 1,000 stores by the end of this year and planned to open 72 new stores each year.
As with other retail chains, Target isn't looking for graduates in a particular field.
"We accept all majors," said Kristen Pfund, an assistant manager at the Target in St. Charles. Pfund, an SIUE graduate, was at the SIUE job fair, running a booth with Ailee Taylor, a store manager from Edwardsville.
"It's more that first impression," Pfund said, stressing the importance that job-hunting students be well prepared. "We want to see enthusiasm. We are looking at the way they present their resume to us. They have to be able to sell themselves."
Target, like many companies in this tighter job market, follows the adage that many are called and few are chosen.
Pfund said Target got about 75 resumes at the job fair. After reviewing them and adding in those critical first impressions, the company will interview 20 to 25. Of those, about five will be hired.
Check out more job fairs at CCN's Job Fair Central(c) 2001 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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