Friday, March 22, 2013

The Troubles of the Post-Collegiate Job Hunt

By Faye Forman                                                                       

As the spring semester draws to a close, the only thing more stressful than finals week is anticipating the bleak summer job or internship market ahead.

While some students have the luxury of traveling abroad, enrolling in pricey summer courses, or have employment waiting for them, it is often the case that many students must search far and wide for a simple entry-level job. Even so, after exploring the potential market, many students find extreme competition where current employees throw out applications, or refuse to accept any at all.

It has also become increasingly common to see adults competing for these entry-level and part-time jobs as well. The same goes for internships, especially unpaid ones, where employers take advantage of interns by assigning them menial tasks. Whether it be a paid summer job, or internship experience, the fact remains: with the U.S. economy in such a slow turn-around, the prospective college or graduate student is likely to be underemployed and competing for employment in McDonalds before they have any hope of entering their studied career field.

Forbes recently published an article by William Baldwin questioning the necessity of the undergraduate college degree. Baldwin states that while it is true that college graduates typically make $1 million more than a non-college grad, the mentality that everyone should attend college specifically to obtain a higher paying job is wrong.

One interesting statistic Baldwin points out is that 115,000 janitorial jobs in the U.S. are held by people with bachelor’s degrees. The “everyone-goes system” is a huge waste of money. Richard Vedder, an economist from Ohio State, explains this janitorial statistic might not be so high if the government didn’t give out Pell grants to all candidates, removing them from the workforce to receive schooling.

While Vedder’s idea is extremely controversial, it should be noted that he speaks from a strictly economic standpoint, not necessarily knocking a well-educated society, but rather supporting a specialized one. For example, Vedder suggests replacing the bachelor degree with a certification degree, especially for those studying liberal arts. Students have the ability to move directly onto nursing, car mechanics, or software specialization rather than spend their time in classes that don’t supply valuable job skills.

As more people with similar qualifications are churned out of colleges, the job market will only continue to become more competitive, and in turn lessen the degree value.

While it is true that some college students and graduates have a smoother job search than others, particularly those with Ivy degrees or students of other especially prestigious schools, it is not always the case. In one instance, Baldwin’s article cites a recent Harvard grad searching for babysitting jobs in the New York City area. After graduating with a Psychology degree in 2011, it would seem as though a college degree can’t guarantee a high paying job, but can it guarantee a job at all?

Abigail Johnson and Tammy Nicastro of Forbes choose to focus on a different aspect of the job crisis. While acknowledging the lack of jobs in recent years, Johnson and Nicastro also point out their frustration with the term “underemployment.” Exactly what the Harvard graduate is experiencing, underemployment, according to both women, is a term used only to facilitate entitlement among young people. Johnson and Nicastro claim it’s arrogant for any young person to assume he or she will get a profitable position upon graduation.

Of course it is necessary to work one’s way up in any employment environment, but I also think after spending over 4 years in an academic setting it’s not unreasonable for a graduate to want a job of their choosing.

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