The world of employment seems to be riddled with downsides. As a recent graduate who has been searching for a full-time job for about a year, I’m finding that “entry level” no longer means fresh out of college. The positions I’ve searched for using the words “entry level” have produced results of positions that require or suggest a minimum of two to five years experience. According to dictionary.com, an entry level position means: “of, or pertaining to, or filling a low-level job in which an employee may gain experience or skills”. Based on the definition, why are these entry level jobs so difficult to qualify for with a college degree and the experiences that accompany it?
Some argue that in order to gain experience to qualify for these now “entry level” jobs, one should apply for internships. I personally loved my internship experience last summer, but it (and many other internships) are not paid. The exchange would be receiving college credit for your internship. I myself am not lucky enough to be able to work an unpaid internship and also pay for a place to live and groceries to eat.
Some internships I’ve seen posted are available to recent college graduates, provided you are no more than six months out of college. Now that I’m reaching the end of that window of opportunity, the struggle to qualify for an entry level position is that much more real. So, I’m looking for jobs that I might be considered overqualified for, or positions that may have nothing to do with my degrees or what I might want to pursue as a career. In need of money to pay my bills, especially with loan repayments looming, I feel it is better to take a job that may not be what I want to do with my life in order to support myself.
On May 20th Brad Plumer wrote an article for the Washington Post entitled: “Only 27 percent of college grads have a job related to their major”. In this article, Plumer discussed underemployment and location. Underemployment seems to mean that there are more qualified individuals for positions than there are positions available. Because there are so many individuals applying for the limited positions, what can we do to help set ourselves apart?
The next most significant aspect of the article to me was, according to a 2010 American Community Survey by the U.S Bureau of the Census, “the chances of finding a job related to your degree or major go up…if you move to a big city”. The author of the U.S Bureau of the Census study argues that “big cities have more job openings and offer a wider variety of job opportunities that can potentially fit the skills of different workers.” The plus side about the city of Chicago is that there are more opportunities, but you have to know how to find them. Unless you have a connection, there seems to be no hurry to hire recent college graduates, at least from my experience. At least the chances of me finding work are a bit higher here.
The Atlantic’s April 4th article (which could have used another spell check), “How Bad Is the Job Market for College Grads? Your Definitive Guide” points out that Bachelor’s degree holders have about half the unemployment rate of those with only high school degrees. However, when college grads have to work at a level they are overqualified for, they are taking away jobs that would normally be available to those with only a high school education, says article author Jordan Weissmann. Since the recession of 2007-2009, the economy will need to be rebuilt with room for college grads, says Weissmann.
In April the Wall Street Journal’s Ben Casselman reported the figure for 2012 of 284,000 Americans who have a BA or higher but are working in jobs that pay minimum wage or less (less than minimum wage meaning working for tips). With so many individuals working below their qualifications level, I at least feel better that I’m not the only one snatching up any job offer that I can. One of the benefits of a college education is the opportunity to make more money in a lifetime of working than one would with only a high school diploma. These articles also discuss the possibility that even though one might have to work a job they are overqualified for, in the long run the likelihood of staying at this level is lower because eventually an opportunity to utilize one’s college education will come along. So, what do we do in the mean time while we wait for bigger and better things to work out?
Last week CNBC’s Kelli B. Grant took the ideas of underemployment and unemployment a step further, saying in “Six college courses that help grads land jobs” that the lack of hiring of college graduates could come down to their lack of skills and interest reflected by not taking courses beyond the core college curriculum. Chad Oakley, president and chief operating officer of executive search firm Charles Aris Inc. says course work that makes you stand out from someone else with the same major should be listed in the skills section of a resume. This is new advice to me, and I have not yet seen an application that asks for a college transcript, even if you are self-reporting it. I always figured that a college degree would be enough to qualify me for a job. Because of underemployment though, a degree doesn’t seem to be enough.
Grant also cites Russ Hovendick, president of the recruiting and placement firm Client Staffing Solutions, who says that skills can also be discussed in cover letters or interviews. My reservation in listing the courses I’ve taken in a cover letter would be that it would feel like applying to college again. I remember working hard to get the good grades needed and have the extra curricular activities accumulated to impress a college. I think grades are important but a cover letter should primarily show off my writing skills, ability to express myself, and showcase how my experiences make me even more qualified than someone without them. If you actually get the chance to interview with a company, definitely do what you can to set yourself apart without being too over the top.
The advice “do what you love” because you will be doing it for the rest of your life (theoretically) is something I’ve heard for a long time and is a philosophy I agree with. If you don’t enjoy what you do, then why spend so much of your time doing it? However, if you don’t have the opportunity to do what you love, how can you make yourself happy? Is it better to take a job simply for the money, or should you wait until you can get a job you will love? I hope that you have the opportunity to do what you love. As for myself, I’m going to keep trying to move forward and try to make the opportunity to do what I love happen. Hopefully there will be a place for us recent grads and underemployed grads in the economy soon.