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by Vault Consulting Editors | October 28, 2008

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College graduation is always a time for trepidation.  Face it, the college years are wonderful times filled with relatively minimal pressures on time and responsibility.  The transition from ivory tower to the employment meat market is always challenging, even in good times.

As some of you in the class of '09 may have noticed, these are not particularly good times.  After several years of growth in campus hiring, 2009 is looking to be flat at best.  A recent survey by the National Association of Colleges & Employers,<A href=http://www.naceweb.org/ target=_blank>NACE</A>, puts hiring at +1.3% but since that figure has been falling, it is likely to be uglier by spring.  And 2009 will produce the largest graduating class in U.S. college history which makes the numbers game even worse.

As always, certain sectors will be tougher than others.  Naturally, banking and finance top this list.  Consulting will be tough.  Advertising and marketing will yield fewer jobs, as will the major retailers.  And clearly, some of the<A href=http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122464035263357361.html target=_blank> difficulty for you '09 graduates</A> could be regional, with northeasterners getting squeezed the most.

Silver lining, anyone?

Do not lose hope.  Many companies rely on entry-level college grads to perform important basic functions, and in times like these, to help replace thousands of the more-senior employees who will be laid off over the next few months leading into summer.  Hundreds of thousands of you will be offered jobs in 2009, though it's likely to take longer and be more last-minute than in recent years.

And there are sectors which will be adding employees despite, or because of, the economy.  Clearly the federal government will be adding employees.  Due to baby boomer retirements, there was already hiring pressure in the government sector and with Uncle Sam supporting (even owning) so much of the American economy, oversight must increase and oversight takes employees.  If you haven't already, you should certainly consider a job with the U.S. Treasury, the Federal Reserve, a federal health department or a national security agency.  Along with the U.S. Military, they are all hiring.

On the private side, look at energy, technology and healthcare companies which are likely to grow in spite of the economy.  And consider small or mid-size firms that may not have the brand names but may have the growth opportunity in this market.

Finally, while interview opportunities may be few and far between this long before graduation, it's a good time to sharpen your personal brand presentation and packaging.  My Vault colleague Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio has some great pointers in our Executive Careers section on<A href=http://www.cnbc.com/id/27417679 target=_blank>CNBC.com</A>. Hey, if it's good enough advice for executives, it should be good enough for you.   As always, I appreciate your comments …

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