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Spenser Williams, 21

Sun., May 23, 2010

Spenser Williams graduated this spring from Gonzaga University with a degree in math and economics. This past year he had a paid internship with Avista Utilities, working on power analysis. He liked the company and the team he worked with. All he needed was the usual job offer many interns get.

Williams found out, however, that nearly every Avista department is facing budget cuts. Hiring interns for full-time jobs has halted across nearly all the utility’s departments, a company spokesman said.

Williams moved back to his parents’ home in Portland last week. He’s got feelers out with PacifiCorp, Portland’s largest power utility. Using references from Avista, he hopes to land a job there.

He also recently interviewed with Portland-based Liberty Northwest, a subsidiary of national insurance provider Liberty Mutual Group.

“I’d like to get a job working in their risk management group,” Williams said. “That would combine my background, my interest in math and economics.”

That interview came about through persistent networking. Williams met Liberty Northwest human resources vice president Mark Fineran at a GU career fair three years ago. He has stayed in touch and continues to contact Fineran from time to time.

This spring Fineran contacted Williams, told him about the opening at Liberty and encouraged him to apply. The general starting salary for a risk analyst at a company like Liberty is in the mid-$40,000s, Williams added.

Building and maintaining a professional network makes a difference, he said.

“In this economy, you have to have someone inside a company who knows your name and who can get others to look at your application.”

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