Unemployed College Graduates, Crisis Continues
After writing my recent 20something post that is dedicated to 20somethings who are starting their careers, I thought I would post a previously written feature story on two college graduates in their 20s who you may or may not be able to relate to. One has secured a job in his field, while the other is still waiting on her opportunity to showcase her talents, which led her to developing her own business a lot sooner than anticipated. Enjoy
You graduated six months ago. Congratulations!
Four years of college is complete, and now you can put your newly acquired skills to good use.
Wrong. You can’t find a job.
And according to USA Today, there’s more than a 50 percent chance you won’t get one. Approximately 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 were jobless or underemployed in 2011.
Those ‘Now Hiring’ signs that fill the windows of retail and fast food places are starting to look real good right about now. But there is no way you can fold clothes at Macy’s or refill napkin dispensers because you thought your first job was going to be relevant to your degree.
However, studies show 40 percent of college graduates’ first jobs have nothing to do with their degree. In actuality, the jobs they get don’t even require one.
This is about the time you start doubting your choice of attending college in the first place. If you were going to end up waiting tables anyway, at least you could have done it without acquiring $50,000 in student loans.
So what now?
If you’re like 22-year-old Kristen Gordon, you feel “discouraged” but still motivated.
“It makes me want to do something about it, if I could,” said the August 2012 University of South Carolina graduate. “I believe in giving back, so if I was in the position to have a job, and I was the manager, hiring manager or whatever, I would try to make a change. I feel like there are too many people who aren’t looking out in a way. It’s kind of like we’re hurting each other.”
Gordon majored in public relations and wants to work at a PR firm that focuses on high-end fashion and Lifestyle. But for right now, she’s jobless.
81 percent of college students said it took more than six months to find their first job, according to a study done by John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.
Gordon has had job offers, but she didn’t accept the many chances to work in insurance or be a bank teller because she’d still be in the same predicament when it came to getting a PR job.
“I feel like at the end of the day when I do try to apply for something in my field, I’m going back to step one: I don’t have anything under my belt,” she said. “Say if I work two-to-three years in insurance and I go try to apply for a PR job, yea I have two-to-three years experience, but not with PR.”
She said it’s pointless to get a job outside of your field, unless of course you have a family and bills to pay. Then she believes in doing what you have to do in order to survive.
“For people who have to get a job to pay bills and stuff like that, there are jobs out there,” she said. “But for college students looking for careers, to start their career, and something in their field, it’s really, really, really hard and competitive.”
Luckily, Gordon isn’t like some 42 percent of all graduates who said they are carrying some financial debt above what they owe for any student loans, mortgage, or rent. She is debt-free and has no pressing obligations that require immediate financial attention.
Like many college students, Gordon participated in an internship during her undergrad and thought that was going to be her way in, but that didn’t happen. She has applied for more than 50 jobs since August, but her goal to have a job by December has not been met. Now she waits to see what the New Year will bring.
“It’s really hard for us because they ask for so much experience,” Gordon says. “Like off the bat they ask for three years experience. And how do you have that if you can’t even get one job.”
Aaron Saunders, a 23-year-old May 2012 graduate from North Carolina Central feels the same way.
“Everybody always says they are looking for someone with experience, but they never give you credit for the experience that you had in college, whether it be internships or working at a place while you were in college,” Saunders said.
Saunders majored in mass communication with a concentration in journalism. He was a very accomplished college student as it relates to his major. He won nine awards for sports writing, headline writing, photojournalism, and page design and layout. He also had internships during his undergrad and immediately after graduation.
But he too found himself out of work for a few months. However, now he is a sportswriter for The Daily Republic in Mitchell, South Dakota. But it wasn’t before filling out more than 100 applications.
“I applied for this job originally and got turned down, and after being home for a couple of months, the sports editor called me and said hey I really need a guy who can do sports reporting.”
Saunders has been working for The Republic since October, but he still thinks finding a job is difficult.
“It’s extremely hard to get a job after graduation,” he said. “Not only are you competing with recent college graduates, you’re competing with people who have one or two years, three years of experience.”
He sees the job he has now as a “building block to something bigger” since he ultimately wants to be a NFL beat writer for Washington Post or The New York Times.
Only about one-quarter of graduates said that their first job was the beginning of what they hoped would be their career. But a decent 46 percent see their first job as the first step on their career path.
From 2009-2010, 12 percent of grads stayed with their first job less than six months. But Saunders plans to stay in Mitchell until something better comes up, although he acknowledges it might take longer than he anticipates.
Another alternative for college graduates is continuing education. Some 62 percent of college graduates are considering grad school. That seems to be the only solution adults can offer to increase chances of getting a job.
82 percent of all adults say it’s harder for young people to find a job than it was for their parents’ generation.
“I’m not sure if it’s the economy,” Gordon said. “They keep saying that jobs have opened up, blah, blah, blah, but I’m like where are they? I don’t see any.”
According to the Manpower survey, many employers think the problem begins in the education system, which fails to get children interested in what the economy really needs: a lot more scientists and engineers.
College grads with education, teaching, and engineering degrees are more likely to find a job that matches the severity of their college degree, according to 2009 Labor Department data cited by The New York Times.
That could be why 48 percent said they should have been more careful about selecting a major. But that puts limitations on students’ creativity if everyone is only going for majors that lead to immediate jobs instead of majors students are actually passionate about.
But Gordon doesn’t care about the statistics. Working in PR has been her dream, and she plans on getting into the field one way or another, which is why she just started her own PR firm.
“I don’t have any clients, but I figured it was great to put on my resume that I’m doing something,” Gordon said.
Her firm focuses on the implementation and image of small businesses and nonprofits. She chose that route because trying to do PR for a bigger company would be a lot more competitive.
“I always knew that I wanted my own PR firm, but I didn’t know it would be this soon,” she said. “I’m still using my tools that I learned in undergrad, I’m just trying to build my dream.”