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Friday, 2 November, 2001, 11:43 GMT
How the job market changed
A backpacker dreams of his career when he returns home
by BBC News Online's Emma Clark

Jamie Miyazaki-Ross is a bright Edinburgh graduate who left university this June and is looking for a permanent job.

He has excellent school qualifications, a good degree and speaks fluent Japanese.

His timing, however, could hardly be worse. His search for a job has coincided with one of the sharpest economic slowdowns since the early 1990s and a global war on terrorism.

A backpacker in Ecuador
Backpackers could get a shock back home
Over the past year, the job market has cooled off dramatically, making it much more competitive for recent graduates and people returning from career breaks or travel abroad.

"When they went abroad, we were at the top of a recruitment boom," says Richard Pearson, director at the Institute for Employment Studies.

"Now they will get a bit of a shock... the froth has gone off the market."

A 'very big difference'

Chris Fay, an ex-trader who recently returned from the round-the-world sail race BT Global Challenge, has noticed a "very big difference".

"When I left work 18 months ago, I was getting two calls a month from headhunters.

"Now I have come back and I am talking to some people, and there only seems to be about three real jobs out there."

Although Mr Fay is confident of landing a job in the new year, he has already formed a contingency plan.

"If I still don't have a job next year, I can always rent my house out and go and do something different."

New York slump

At the end of last summer, Mr Miyazaki-Ross thought he had found his dream job in New York, working for a film production company.

Ground zero in New York
The attacks on New York damaged job prospects

"There was a lot of stuff flying around and there seemed to be a lot of work," he says.

However, 10 days after the attacks on the World Trade Center, his employer folded because it was unable to continue filming in the grief-stricken city.

He is now back in London, working temporarily for a restaurant.

Employer's market

A recent report from the Association of Graduate Recruiters found that 26% of surveyed employers have decreased their target number of graduate vacancies.

The economic slowdown was the chief reason for cutting the graduate positions.

Students celebrating their graduation
Employers are cutting vacancies for graduates
Steve Murray, deputy editor in the newsletter division of publisher Euromoney Institutional Investor, first noticed the job market turning last February.

"Turnover slowed down and we stopped looking for new candidates to fill positions," he says.

"When we went back, it was really evident that the job market had changed." squeeze

During the heady days of the boom, Institutional Investor found that if it did not snap up candidates quickly, it was in danger of losing them a few days later to competitors.

But now Mr Murray can re-contact short listed candidates months later when a new vacancy comes up - and find that they are still looking for a job.

"The quality of candidates now is way above what it was a year ago," he adds.

But the change in the economy has left mass recruiters, such as accountancy and management consultancy firms, with a surplus of good hires and not enough work to go round.

Late starters

Accenture, for example, has asked new graduates to take 6,000 of their sign-on bonus and delay starting for another six months.

Although I completely understand the reasons behind their plans, for me it has been a bit frustrating

Mike Papadimitriou
an Accenture graduate

"For most graduates, it seems to be a really good idea and it allows you to spend six months travelling or working for a charity," says Mike Papadimitriou, a biological sciences graduate.

But he adds: "Although I completely understand the reasons behind their plans, for me it has been a bit frustrating."

Mr Papadimitriou graduated in September 2000, and decided to take time out to consider his career options.

Over a year later, he is keen to get a foot on the career ladder and was disappointed by the delay in the graduate programme.

He also regrets that he took time off, wishing he had made up his mind quicker. "I'd probably got in before the cut."

Flexible approach

Job seekers at the sharp end of the slowdown have also been forced to take a flexible approach.

Emily Little, a participant the BT Global Challenge sail race
Ms Little's future has become less predictable

Emily Little, one of Mr Fay's crew members in the BT Global Challenge race, has taken project-based work at a high-street bank.

After giving up her job as a PR executive and taking a year-out to sail, she had hoped to move her career in a different direction when she returned.

"I had various irons in the fire, but some are taking longer to surface because of the economic slowdown and the events of 11 September," she says.

Don't panic!

Despite the slowdown, Mr Pearson is confident that strong candidates have little to worry about in the long-term.

"They should be patient and they shouldn't panic," he says.

Mr Fay certainly has no regrets at having taken time out to sail. He says the skills he has learned mean the year-out "will more than pay for itself in the long run".

In addition, Richard King, another Global Challenge participant, says that he has had little trouble in getting a job as a commodities trader as a result of his experiences.

Back in London, Mr Miyazaki-Ross is still hoping for his big break in the film industry.

Despite his bad luck, he remains undaunted by the economic odds stacked against him.

See also:

01 Nov 01 | Business
22 Oct 01 | Business
24 May 01 | Business
15 Feb 01 | Education
26 Jan 01 | Education
08 Dec 00 | Education
22 Aug 00 | UK
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