Job market: The dividends of faliure

by David McGee

When I started college I thought that by the time I was done there would be job offers around every corner and that a stable job that could pay bills would be ready and waiting. It’s amazing how much can change in six years and how far off base my eager, young mind was.

Now as a young man a couple years out of college with a degree and experience in multiple job markets, the opportunities for work are slim. Real slim. But this doesn’t make me unique by a longshot. Ask the majority of the 20-somethings fresh out of college and chances are that they’ll tell you that the job market is not what we were expecting. Some are working in unrelated fields or unable to get jobs entirely. It’s unfortunate that the loan companies don’t accept “recession” as a viable reason for inability to pay.

The favorite word news outlets are floating around to explain the economic situation is that the US is experiencing “stagnation.” This means that the economy has stopped growing and jobs are just not there. The comfort this buzzword provides to the 531,000 people who filed for unemployment last week, up 11,000 from the week before, must make them forget about their empty refrigerators, empty gas tanks and the hungry moths in their wallets.

It’s a frustrating blow to every graduate who put so much time and effort into building a knowledge base only to find out that the job market hasn’t been worse in 25 years, and that it isn’t expected to improve for at least another year.

As if that isn’t bad enough, the poor luck of the college graduate gets worse. Economic research shows that the college graduate entering the job market in a stagnant recession will have long-term effects to deal with as well. These include lower earnings, a harder and slower fight up the job ladder and the fact that the results a recession can last up to 15 years.

This blue news can be hard to swallow for so many who thought that the exact opposite was going to be the case when they started out. No one puts in thousands of dollars and hours into something only to find out that it was her bad luck to complete college when unemployment is hovering around 10.5 percent in North Carolina. The only thing to do is hope the glass is half full, that employers are willing to take a chance on someone. To hope our government is looking out for the next generation’s best interests and has a plan to get us through this disaster of a depression.

So what is the advice being offered to those of us unfortunate enough to be caught in the worst economic downturn since the ’80s? The top two recommendations that keep coming up are to stay positive and don’t give up on finding a job.

By staying positive and looking at the bright side of life, the recession and job market are less likely to become overwhelming. Remember that things can always get worse and those with only high school diplomas are having it a lot harder.

Not giving up on finding a job may sound like common sense but anyone who has spent mounds of time searching and applying can relate to the frustration and discouragement that comes along with the ordeal. Just stick to it and think of the hunt as your full-time job until that call comes for aninterview or a hire. If you aren’t putting yourself out there over andover while staying open-minded to the possibilities, then chances areyou’re doomed anyway. Stick to it and eventually there will be a payoff.

Some more adviceworth considering — and being offered by the pros — is to take alower-wage job in your field rather than going outside of it. Byentering in your field but not specifically doing the job you wanted,you will be increasing your experience and building on the knowledge inthe field, better than if you were to take something temporary outsideof it. This may mean starting at the very bottom or some offshoot ofthe original plan but that only means you can go up. Stay positive!

RobertReich had some words of encouragement and practicality at a 2002graduation speech at Grinnell College that are very applicable to theinopportune period many young adults are facing:

“Gainingself-knowledge often comes from failing/crashing headlong into the wallof your character. And please have no doubts about it: You will fail,in some way, at some time. In fact, you will keep crashing into thatcharacter wall again and again until you finally realize its there, andthat you have either got to knock it down or figure out how to get overit.”