Busting the Post-Grad Career Blues

I remember visiting the bookstore with a friend back in 2006. We were high school seniors, deeply-immersed in the college application process. Way back in the career section, we stumbled upon a book that listed the average salary of each job. She was set on becoming an art teacher. I knew I was destined to be a journalist. At the time, our future salaries were our only source of concern. In a little over a year from now, we’ll both be graduating college. Somewhere along the way, “will I make enough money at my job” was replaced with “will I find a job at all”.

Those graduating college in 2010 are essentially at the bottom of the job search food chain. At the top are the older generations who were laid off from their jobs but whose professional experience makes them more qualified than any recent college grad out there. The odds are only made worse by previous years’ statistics. We’re not just competing with our own graduating class, but with the past few years of unsuccessful job searchers.

Last September, ABC News cited a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers that shows just how much of a difference a year can make. In 2007, 51 percent of graduates found a job. The numbers dropped to 26 percent in 2008 and then plummeted even more in 2009 with a 19.7 percent success rate.

Ilysse Weisenfeld, a sociology major at Purchase College, says that she feels prepared for her first professional interview, but worries that it will be a long time before she gets a chance to show off these skills. “There are so many people with more job experiences than I have,” she says. “With the workforce so decimated, my chances aren’t high.” For this reason, Weisenfeld plans to work towards her PhD, biding her time and crossing her fingers for an improved job market.

While today’s job market may be enough to have even the most qualified 20-something shaking in his or her post-grad boots, those who are willing to make sacrifices may have the best shot.

For Leah Rocketto, a magazine journalism major at Syracuse University, compromise is key. “I know I’m not going to get paid well right out of college or even have the greatest benefits,” says Rocketto. “If I wanted to be ensured an amazing first job, I would have gone into something safe . I will do whatever I need to do to get my foot in the door. Then after a few years, I will get a little pickier.”

An MSNBC article from 2009 compared the overall unemployment rate to that of the 20-24 year old bracket. Studies found that the younger generation has about a 5 percent greater unemployment percentage than the country as a whole.

For many soon-to-be grads and post-grads, all qualifications of a “good job” such as salary, location, and benefits are thrown to the wayside. The job market has become a settler’s world and more and more job searchers are learning that compromise is key.

Though the daunting nature of the job market is difficult to ignore, patience and perseverance are key. Here are some tips for making the most of your hard-earned education:

If, like the majority of college grads, finding a job seems near impossible, try applying for internships. This is a great way to add experience to your resume while still actively applying for a paying position.

Network, network, network! Get on Twitter, create a LinkedIn account, and research local networking events in your area. Ask professors if they have any connections and contact workers at past internships. Often, it’s not what you know, but who you know.

Research qualifications for your dream job and become a self-teacher. Our generation is nothing if not resourceful. Take a class at a local community college or invest in a computer program to learn a new language, or volunteer in your area of interest.

Even if you haven’t taken a history class since high school, this is one subject that may provide some reassurance for the job-searching crowd. Through all your efforts, keep in mind that everything, especially the economy, is cyclical. It’s not a matter of IF things will get better, but WHEN. And when that day arrives, you want to be the best prepared for the task at hand.


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1 Comment

  1. Good news! The Wall Street Journal wrote today that the job market has picked up for MBA’s. The same trend is bound to follow for college grads.

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