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WKU grads try different job paths

BOWLING GREEN — Facing a bleak job market, Brittney Joiner is thinking about extending her time in school once she gets her degree this spring at Western Kentucky University.

The psychology major from Hopkinsville says graduate school might be the best place to ride out the recession before heading into the job market.

"If I had (fore)seen the economy downturn, I wouldn't have worked so hard to get done in four years," Joiner told the Daily News of Bowling Green. "I wouldn't be looking ahead of me and seeing graduation in a month; it would be a year down the road."

Joiner said it's a "nerve-racking" time. "I guess I can always live with my parents if things don't work out."

Hundreds of seniors will descend from the Hill at WKU's graduation next month and stack their résumés against unemployed workers and laid-off professionals with years of experience.

Psychology student Zane Dempsey will graduate in May with his master's degree and, while he already has a job working in counseling and special education assessment at a local school, the economy threatens the future of his career, which depends on state funds.

"Lucky for me, my job has to be done," he said. "But I know it's weighing on everyone's minds."

Becky Bennett, director of the Career Services Center at WKU, said the fastest-growing fields requiring a bachelor's degree or higher are in health care, mental health, computer software, and marriage and family counseling.

Bennett said she recommends that graduates looking for jobs attempt to volunteer in their chosen careers while working on the skills for the job through continued education or part-time work.

She said it's important to start the job search as soon as possible.

For Tompkinsville senior Savannah Thomas, an advertising major at WKU, having a résumé is not going to be enough to set herself apart from other applicants with more experience.

Thomas said she is working on a digital résumé and Web site through the advertising department and will be seeking advice from others in the field during a Webinar hosted by the department.

"They recommend you have two to three internships by graduation, but that's difficult, especially if they're unpaid," she said. "Grad school is definitely looking really good right now."

Travis Garner came to WKU from Albuquerque, N.M., to get a photojournalism degree and move into the newspaper industry. But seeing newspapers such as the Pulitzer Prize-winning Rocky Mountain News permanently stop their presses is disheartening, he said.

"It's a scary thing to be putting your future in news in a time when they are closing organizations doing such great things," he said. "Not only are we competing with talented photographers coming out of school, but people in the industry for years now (who are now) without a job."

Garner said he plans to complete an internship during the summer with the News & Guide in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and will continue to seek other internships until he finds permanent work.

The senior said he is also looking into teaching Spanish abroad in a six-month program, which would allow him to do research and complete a photo project to enhance his portfolio.