Tag Archives: Class of 2012

Recent Graduates Face a Molasses-Like Economy

About a year ago I wrote about education inflation. A year later, I’ve graduated undergrad, started two jobs, and found an apartment. I’ve also watched a number of my friends in the same “fling-yourself-out-into-the-world” circuit, and so my viewpoint has definitely refined.
source: sodahead.com
A year ago, I was thinking about the nature of my education, and now I’m really just worried about getting a job, and so is everybody else I know – I’m finding that one thing that demonstrates the inflation of higher education is the fact that young graduates right now are facing 50% un- or under-employment.

We (collective college graduates, that is) are presented, upon getting off the bus singing “NYC” from that one Broadway show, with a dismal job market for recent grads. We are also presented with loan payments, apartments that require us to earn triple their rent to even apply there, and “entry level” job lists full of positions that require 5 years of experience.

Bachelors’ degrees mean less to employers, and there are two possible reasons for this: either their prevalence simply means that BAs and BSs are less of a distinction than they used to be, or employers find that Bachelors’ degrees don’t really ensure quality work. This second reason explains why employers are requiring more and more experience for “entry-level” jobs; bachelor’s degrees used to be enough to indicate an applicant’s competency; now, employers don’t want to risk hiring any new college grad who hasn’t proven him/herself in the workforce first.

source: weeatfilms.com

Sitting on the couch all day looking for jobs that aren’t there is, surprisingly, exhausting

This traps recent college grads with little-to-no full time experience in a rather depressing catch-22. Half of us are taking jobs that don’t pay enough or are in fields unrelated to our major; a full quarter of us are working for free to get experience. A third of us go back to school after trying to enter the work force with just a bachelors’ degree. A confirmed1 94% of us consume triple the amount of ice cream than we did a year ago.

In terms of status in the work force, bachelors’ degrees have become the equivalent to what a high school education used to be. In terms of time and money, however, bachelors’ degrees are painfully different – instead of entering the workforce at 18 with generalized competence, college grads are old enough to want permanent homes, long-term relationships, and career-based jobs, but are entering the workforce equipped with almost nothing to achieve those goals.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but this is a problem that needs to self-correct (if you want to be all Adam Smith about it). Many degrees are now including internships as part of their requirements, and it seems to me that (perhaps even more significantly) nervous mothers talk about them to sullen college students at a higher rate. Maybe the undergraduate degree will become more like a vocational school, in that sense, or a stepping stone to graduate school for those inclined towards academia. It seems less likely that students will find more success trying to get four years of experience, starting from the bottom up out of high school, but it’s a possibility.

What’s more, unemployment yields depression and lowered self-efficacy. Because so many of the unemployed population are young, this means that a huge portion of the emerging workforce and maturing economic leaders which will have debilitating effects on the US as a whole in the near and distant future.

Society as a whole is suffering and will continue to suffer from education inflation, as more overeducated students with little actual experience are flung into a floundering economy.

1Not really confirmed

On graduating in 2012

When I was in the first grade I wanted to be an archaeologist.

I wasn’t too big on the actual dinosaurs – I couldn’t tell you whether Brachiosauruses lived in the Triassic or not – but I thought that finding things buried in sand sounded like the most fun anyone could ever have. I became addicted to those little toy blocks of hardened sand that have plastic tyrannosaurus skeletons in them. I drew pictures of myself wearing desert gear and a wide-brimmed hat. I watched Jurassic Park. I taught my 8-year-old self how to spell archaeologist.

If you asked me in the first grade, being an archaeologist was my dream. If you told me, in the first grade, that I’d be going to college for Not Archaeology, I’d be despondent.

When I was a sophomore in college, when I was choosing a track to follow for my psych major, I initially was going to go with neuroscience because it was the most impressive-sounding. I avoided declaring an English major because I was afraid of what my family would think.

We tend to think in extremes when planning or considering the future – I sure did, especially when I was a child. I thought I would marry a movie star; then I made plans to live in the woods for the rest of my life. I imagined the perfect house to be full of pianos and books, and I decided that Heaven must be a dining room with one giant bowl of macaroni and cheese in the center.

Now, my plans are less imaginative but more concrete. Instead of impressiveness, I’m looking for stability. Instead of individuality, I’m looking for ways to fit into work environments. I want my future house to have a laundry room and my conception of Heaven is considerably different from what it was when I was growing up.

And I don’t think this is a bad thing. When I was 8, my central life goal was apparently “coolness.” While coolness is, admittedly, high on my priority list, it’s tempered by “health insurance,” “family,” and “not being homeless.” Similarly, my wish to have an impressive neuroscience major has been tempered by the fact that I wouldn’t actually enjoy working in neuroscience.

I’m enjoying my new, slightly-more-relaxed mindset about my future. I’m glad that I don’t have to achieve grandiose goals to find fulfillment in my life.

But that was what I had been told. I could be the President, or a doctor, or a lawyer! I was an individual. I was special. I could do “anything” – but all the “anythings” listed were only impressive, dramatic, or glamorous anythings.

Now, though, I’m realizing that I don’t want to be an archaeologist, or the President, or an astronaut. I’d prefer a steady job over a glamorous one and a stable home over a dramatic one.

Humans are wired to be slightly delusional, but we often wouldn’t be content with the things that seem ideal to us. Being an archaeologist, while cool-sounding, requires a lot more work that I wouldn’t enjoy than my adolescent self imagined. Neuroscience sounds impressive but the pre-therapy track is way more applicable to my career plans.

I used to imagine myself being an English professor because I liked tea and I imagined it would be a career void of troubles with bureaucracy – I then realized that (a) that second point wasn’t true at all, and (b) I didn’t want to go into academia. My plans now – going to grad school in communication, finding someone who will pay me for doing something I enjoy, and maybe having a family – are more complicated than what I had planned when I was 16, but I’m also more excited about them.

We have the capacity to be discontent wherever we are. I thought that being an archaeologist – and, later, having an impressive major – would be the ideal, and would make me happy. I’m now starting to suspect that nothing’s going to make me happy – at least, not in the way I was expecting.

While there is the possibility of regretting any decision we make, we also have the ability to find contentment and joy in a wide variety of situations. Not all career choices or income levels or house photos will be impressive at class reunions, but sometimes less immediately exciting choices are the things that are actually fulfilling.