In today’s job market, one in two college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. Not only has student loan debt surpassed one trillion dollars, but median wages for those with a bachelor’s degree are down from 2000 — to the lowest level in more than a decade.
Students have had to tackle multiple, unrelated part-time jobs just to chip away at their payments. Or, they’ve pulled a Joe Mihalic and gotten crafty by chronicling their journey of cutting costs in blog form, all while selling a motorcycle for $2,000, a bicycle for about $1,000 and rolling down a 401(k) into an IRA. Not everyone’s as lucky, however. (If only we could all say we paid off $90,000 in just seven months.)
We reached out to the community to see if they had any stories to share on unemployment and how they’ve coped since graduating. Some have kept their skills relevant by taking on internships. Others have shipped themselves from Boston to Wisconsin, where the market isn’t as saturated by a pool of newly-minted, job-hungry graduates. And others have contemplated moving back in with their parents. Here are their stories, straight from their mouths.
Do you have a story to share? Let us know in the comments!
From Jessica Walsh
The job market right now is absolutely frightening.
In May 2011, I graduated from Bridgewater State University with my Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. With several school leadership positions and a couple of internships under my belt, I thought getting a job in my desired field would be fairly easy. What I was actually greeted with when I graduated was about 30+ unanswered applications and several unreturned phone calls. Although one of my “connections” told me she’d have an unpaid internship for me in probation — my desired career — the chief officer wouldn’t allow it, leaving me with nothing but five years of experience at a family-owned jewelry store, six months as a hostess at a restaurant and a work study job at school, serving as a statistician for sporting events.
I soon found a job at another family-owned jewelry store part-time, yet was laid off out of the blue on Valentine’s Day of this past year because I was “no longer needed.” I was completely in shock and started frantically searching for any job around where I was living in Medford.
Eventually, there came an opportunity for me to move to Plymouth with an old college roommate who assured me I would find a job within her business networking group. I joined the second day after I moved in, but when I announced I was looking for a job, only one out of the 63 business owners ended up getting back to me. And after I had an interview for his office administration job, he said I didn’t have enough experience for the job.
After applying for about 10 jobs a day, I finally landed a nannying job for $12/hour, but the family was a mess. They were going through a divorce, selling their house, the children had disabilities and I was never told what time I was going to be off for the night. Sometimes it was 7 p.m., and other times it was 11 p.m. The job was taking a toll on my health, and so now I clean houses for $9.50/hour for less than 30 hours a week. It’s not nearly enough to live, so I’m contemplating moving home with my parents to save on rent. In all, I’ve applied to over 75 jobs, both part-time and full-time. The job market right now is absolutely frightening, and it’s sad that I worked so hard in school to graduate Magna Cum Laude, and to be in debt, all with a degree that is basically useless.
From Andrew Krepow
It’s unfortunate that I could have just as much to offer as someone else, but because I’m not their intern, I lost out.
I graduated in May ’11 from UMass Amherst with the “dreaded” communications degree, hoping to start a career in public relations. Without a PR major offered at the school and its distance to Boston, I found something that was as close to a PR internship as I could find. Without much experience, I knew I’d still need to intern after graduating, but figured it would pay off by the end of the year. Through networking, I got my first PR agency internship; but by the end, I knew I still needed more experience.
This led me to my next internship, which put me in a fantastic direction and I sensed a real job was right around the corner. I went on several interviews and wound up receiving the same email by all of them: “We really enjoyed meeting you. Your professionalism and knowledge for PR is apparent. But we wound up hiring an intern/someone with more work experience that set them above you.”
Since those initial interviews, I’ve found the subsequent response to be a trend everywhere. Every place seems to be looking for the position above entry-level or an intern; entry-level positions are a rarity. For now, I’m stuck applying to jobs I’m not yet qualified for, or applying for a fourth internship with the hopes of landing somewhere in the future. It’s unfortunate that I could have just as much to offer as someone else, but because I’m not their intern, I lost out. It’s even more unfortunate that an entry-level job will go to someone who is over-qualified to work entry-level.
From Matthew Soleyn
One company I interviewed at said I was the first of 50 people they had for a single job opening.
In 2010, after graduating from Northeastern, it took over three months to get offered a reasonable job, despite applying to hundreds of jobs, and interviewing at dozens of firms. One reason for this was speaking with various hiring managers, they were seeing unprecedented interest in jobs, with people having 10+ years of experience applying for entry-level jobs because their companies went under or they were laid off.
The other issue seemed to be that some companies felt like since so many people needed jobs, the supply/demand curve shifted so they could now offer college graduates salaries (pre-tax) that were as low as $20,000/year, which really wouldn’t even cover the cost of living plus repaying student loans. Eventually, I realized that in order to find a job I might need to look outside of the New England area, and started applying to jobs all over the country, and even jobs where Americans would work overseas. I ended up finding a project management job in Wisconsin that involved traveling four to five times a month to different clients, and so I moved to Wisconsin to start working there.
In the spring of 2012, I started looking for a new job, because I wanted to move back to the East Coast and have a job with less travel. Unfortunately, it is still difficult because the economy still has unemployment at or above eight percent, which is resulting in very long interview cycles as job openings get a large number of applicants. One company I interviewed at said I was the first of 50 people they had for a single job opening. I’ve also heard from a few companies that they are not filling all vacancies anymore because they’re waiting to see what happens with the presidential elections since there’s an expected impact on taxation and other business costs depending on who is elected.
From Caroline Jones
Sure, my situation is far from ideal, but I have to play the cards I’ve been dealt.
I’m 23 years old, I graduated from college almost 14 months ago, and I don’t have a full-time job. Like a lot of my fellow 2011 grads, I’ve been applying to dozens of positions and gone on a lot of seemingly promising interviews but so far, nothing permanent has stuck. That being said, I wouldn’t necessarily call myself unemployed — I’ve found a couple of ways to fill my time while making a little bit of money on the side and gaining even more work experience.
I wasn’t entirely surprised to end up in this position. I graduated from Emerson College with a degree in writing, literature and publishing, and my dream job is to be an editor at a national magazine — an industry currently going through a major transformation. Full-time jobs aren’t exactly abundant, but I’m not willing to give up on my dreams just yet, so I’ve had to get pretty creative when it came to finding activities that will move me closer to my end goal.
Luckily, within a few months of moving back home in order to save money, I landed a fantastic internship at a small magazine in Washington, D.C. It’s unpaid, but my transportation costs are covered and my co-workers have been incredible. Not only have they taught me more about how to put out a magazine than anyone else, they’ve also supported me as I navigate pseudo-unemployment. They’ve recommended me for jobs with their friends and helped me find paid freelance work so I’ve been able to earn a little bit of money doing research and transcribing interviews for other writers, which in turn has introduced me to even more people who are helping me find the ever-elusive full-time job.
One major benefit of this “funemployment” period, aside from making my own schedule, is the ability to participate in activities that occur during traditional working hours. I tutor hilarious elementary school kids once a week and get to indulge my inner eight-year-old by helping them write acrostic poems and finish word searches. Even on the roughest days, laughing about the weird things that elementary schoolers enjoy always makes me feel a little better.
Sure, my situation is far from ideal, but I have to play the cards I’ve been dealt. I gave up a lot of the independence I had at an urban college by moving back to the suburbs with my parents, and there are moments when I really feel like I won’t make it, but I’m saving money by not paying rent and going out all the time. I miss being with my friends and taking on the world entirely on my own but I’m making progress, slowly but surely. On the upside, I’m now more patient than I ever could have imagined.