If you pass a college campus in the next month, get ready for "Pomp and Circumstance" - and quite a few anxious faces.
It is commencement season at Long Island's colleges, and many of those about to graduate say their joy is tempered by a struggle to find jobs at a time when, experts claim, the recession is ebbing.
Thousands of students will graduate from more than 15 local campuses in the next month. They will be hearing the advice of speakers such as former presidential candidate Howard Dean, who delivers the address at Hofstra Sunday, and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy on June 21.
Business speakers are in vogue, from Molloy College's choice of Jim McCann, chief executive of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, to the New York College of Health Professions' speaker and honorary doctorate recipient, Leonard Lauren, vice president of Polo/Ralph Lauren.
Don't be surprised if some new grads slip resumes to the speakers. It's been a difficult year, say many seniors searching for employment.
"Everyone says it's a little better than last year, but it's hard to tell," said Kristi Medley, 22, of Hempstead, who will be graduating from Adelphi with a bachelor's in business management. She's been looking for all sorts of jobs and recently has tried out for management training programs. She's been struck by the shortage of jobs as well as the number of employers advertising lower starting salaries than she expected.
Most of the programs pay about $30,000, and that's daunting for Medley, who estimates she now has at least $50,000 in education loans. "Looking at those jobs," she said, "I have a feeling I'm going to have to live at home longer than I thought."
The pessimism among some Long Island graduates contrasts with national surveys that show optimism among students and employers. Nearly 25 percent of 2010 graduates who applied for a job have lined one up, compared to less than 20 percent last year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
And the association's survey shows companies plan to recruit more college graduates than they did last year. It ranks hiring activity on a scale of 0 and 200, and that rose from 87 last fall to 98 now.
"If you're not prepared with any kind of specialized training, internships or experience, you're out of luck," said Saim Erden, 25, of Lindenhurst, who is graduating from SUNY Old Westbury as a criminology major.
He counts himself lucky. He served in the Army for two years, he speaks Turkish and he's worked in businesses. He expects to find a job soon.
Mike Valveri, 21, from Uniondale, will graduate from Molloy with an accounting degree in two weeks, and he's landed a job with a major accounting firm. But he worries about classmates who can't even get an interview.
"I think our country has a problem - we have outsourced a lot of our jobs, from customer service to manufacturing," he said. "We haven't figured out how to replace the jobs."
Some graduates are opting to stay out of the job market for now and return to the classroom. At Stony Brook University, Simon Cai, 22, of Manhattan, said he initially wanted to study advertising but ended up majoring in psychology. Next year he's heading to the University of Rochester for a one-year nursing program.
"Every other career is being taken over by computers," he said, "but you still need people working in health care."