Hottest job market in a decade

In less than two weeks, the nearly 6,100 graduates of PSU’s Class of 2019 will make the big transition from school to work. And by all accounts, they will be entering a job market full of opportunities. 

“The majority of hiring in Oregon takes place in small to mid-size companies, so it is hard to say who the top employers are. Smaller companies make up the bulk of where people go.” 

A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers states that this is one of the best job markets for new college graduates since 2007. Portland’s unemployment rate stands at about 3.9 percent – right in line with the national average and better than Oregon as a whole. Portlanders also earn more than the national average salary, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Greg Flores, associate director of Career Services at PSU said the top companies hiring PSU graduates are also the largest employers in Oregon: Intel, OHSU, Nike, Providence Health Services, Kaiser Permanente, Daimler Trucks North America, City of Portland, Portland Public Schools, and so on. 

But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

“The majority of hiring in Oregon takes place in small to mid-size companies, so it is hard to say who the top employers are. Smaller companies make up the bulk of where people go,” he said.

Flores said one of the things separating PSU graduates from the rest of the pack is the interdisciplinary learning they receive through University Studies. Through PSU’s curriculum, grads gain competencies such as communication skills, critical thinking, team work and the ability to see different perspectives that cross disciplinary boundaries – all of which make them great job candidates, he said.

“Focusing on the transferability of your experience to a new environment will help you succeed in the job market,” he advises. 

Meet some upcoming graduates who are doing just that:

Shepol Meman (left) has a passion for cars. Until last fall he was one of the leaders of the 40-member student group Viking Motorsports Portland State Formula SAE, which received a sponsorship from Tektronix to build and electric formula car.
The experience led him to Daimler Trucks North America, which employs more about 150 PSU graduates. The University and Daimler have had a long, mutually beneficial relationship that has helped shape the curriculum of the PSU business and engineering schools and has produced internships and high-paying jobs for grads.

Meman got an internship with the company, and later a full-paying job in which he and his team members test the limits of truck systems and components. He’ll continue to work with Daimler after he receives his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

“I believe in PSU because of the kinds of graduates it produces,” he says. “This is a gateway that offers a foundation for success. Being at PSU, I’ve never been told ‘no.’ If you have an idea, go run for it. Do it!”

Amy Morales (right), as a student at Portland Community College (PCC), was uncertain about what academic path to follow when she got some good advice from her brother, Leo: Get a business degree at PSU.
Leo was a recent PSU business graduate, and Amy decided to follow in his footsteps. She took accounting classes at PCC, transferred to PSU and earned her business degree in 2018.

She then enrolled in PSU’s Master of Taxation (MTax) program and became president of Beta Alpha Psi —an honor society dedicated to accounting and finance students.

Morales devoted a lot of time to networking. She filled her schedule with career events, organized mock interviews and resume critique sessions, and sought out every opportunity she could to immerse herself in her education. These tactics paid dividends.

She’s now set to graduate from the MTax program, and has already received a full-time job offer from the Portland office of the international Big-4 accounting firm Ernst & Young, where she has been interning since 2017.

“It’s a perfect fit, and that feels good,” she said.

Seattle native Brandon Petitt (left) already has a job as a film editor for NBC Sports Northwest, thanks in part to PSU’s School of Film, where he’s earning a bachelor’s degree and where he mentored with award-winning documentary filmmaker Courtney Hermann.
Professor Hermann recognized Petitt’s editing technique and connected him with Portland company Brandlive, a marketing software firm that incorporates live video. He got an internship with Brandlive, and at the same time interviewed with NBC Sports Northwest. He worked at both places until his internship ended. 
He’s been at NBC for eight months, where he’s worked on shows such as “The Bridge,” “Rip City Rewind,” “Outdoor GPS” and others. The company is giving him lots of opportunities to broaden his skills. 
Petitt is a hip-hop artists as well, and ultimately wants to create a whole production company around his art. He looks to artists such as Pharrell Williams and Childish Gambino for inspiration.
“They’re people who can balance it all, and that’s how I want to approach it: combining music and film and continuing to grow the same kind of respect they have,” he said.
Story by John Kirkland and Crista Tappan
Homepage photo: Business graduate Edwin Martinez-Garcia went from PSU to a great position at Adidas, one of Portland’s major employers.