Another college graduation season has eased to its celebratory end, and parents who have finally paid the last of the tuition bills are talking less about majors and GPAs and plenty about jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs, as
mantra and buzz word.
If my friends with newly minted grads are any indication, work — any kind, any place, at any pay — has become as coveted as admission to an Ivy League school once was.
“Back home and still looking,” one friend told me about her daughter.
“Going to graduate school,” said another. “Nothing out there for him.”
“If you hear of anything, lemme know,” a third wrote me in a Facebook message. “These days it’s all about networking.”
Networking, and a whole lot more. My totally unscientific survey reached this conclusion: There are jobs for college graduates in science, math and engineering. Accounting and healthcare, too. Those with liberal arts degrees … well, that’s a longer, tougher.
The worst of the Great Recession may be over, but opportunities in the job market are, at best, mixed. An analysis by the Associated Press shows that half of young college grads are either jobless or underemployed, working in positions that could be easily filled by someone with less education. In other words, if your kid got his bachelor’s in creative writing, he may be lucky to land work as a barista. If he opted for chemical engineering, he may have fielded a couple of job offers.
Before you toss that hard-earned sheepskin in the circular file, let me offer a bit of hope. This year’s grads, about 1.78 million strong, are actually better off than last year’s, or of the year before that. Employers plan to hire 10 percent more this time around, and the unemployment rate is down from 2011.
This morsel of good news comes with a caveat, however: Salaries for the newly hired have fallen, and college grads owe, collectively, more than $1 trillion in student loans. Debt and no job (or minimum-wage work) is a tough way to start your adult life. It will take years for them to recover.
Some have called this new batch of not-quite-there workers the Postponed Generation or Generation Limbo. Highly educated, they’re stuck in neutral, waiting for more jobs, higher pay, better prospects.
It’s certainly frustrating for the 20-somethings, but it’s also tough on their parents. These young adults have studied hard and followed the rules, their parents have scrimped and sacrificed, but the expected rewards seem just beyond reach. I haven’t been this worried since I began sending my children to college 14 years ago.
My youngest sons are at least two years from graduating, and they’ve chosen careers (accounting, math) that appear to be in demand. Nonetheless, I phone them, worried, hoping to sidestep the obstacles my friends’ children are facing. Meet with your advisor,
I admonish . Check out the job fair. Apply for internships.
I forward them how-to articles on resume-writing and interviewing.
Long gone are the days of encouraging students to follow their dreams, if those dreams require an art history degree. Or, for that matter, one in journalism. Now it’s all about the jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs.
Which makes me wonder if, 20 years from now, a generation of middle-aged workers will find themselves employed but miserable. Follow Ana on Twitter @AnaVeciana.