4 Reasons Why Young College Grads are Struggling

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Rachel Davis is a recent University of Colorado graduate, now holding a degree in marketing with a certificate in international business. She’s driven, worked hard during her school years, and found ways to differentiate herself, like studying abroad for a semester.

Now, she has no job.

Fortunately for her, she has no debt. Her parents helped her pay for her undergraduate degree, but now that she’s been accepted into a prestigious program called the Kiva Fellows Program, she must figure out how to pay for the spot they’ve offered her, as well as move to a major city like Chicago, Boston or New York. That’s a tough pill to swallow for someone fresh out of school, but her prospects should be bright when she completes the program.

Davis tells me she’s atypical of her classmates in terms of debt. She estimates 80% of her college classmates owe something and several owe a LOT now that they are finished with school. Being saddled with that kind of debt can be daunting for a job hunter.

Her best friend, an engineering student, got a job after two interviews – making a good case to our kids who like the science, technology, engineering and math classes (also known now as STEM). Her other friend, an anthropology major still searches for the outdoor career she desires.

So what’s causing young people to struggle?

When these kids entered college in 2008, things were good around the country; now that landscape has changed. Davis believes it may have to do with a couple of different reasons:

  • Recent college grads have unreasonable expectations for their careers – many times, graduates might pass up opportunities because they aren’t the perfect job. This comes from being given everything in life for their entire lives. Davis says there are jobs out there but many times, job hunters pass them up because they believe they deserve something bigger or better. “My generation expects things to be handed to them,” she says.
  • Graduates didn’t take risks. Unlike Davis who spent a grueling semester doing business consulting through the Entrepreneurship Empowerment South Africa (EESA) program and who worked with a Non-Government Agency in Afghanistan this spring, many students don’t find ways to excel or differentiate themselves from their peers. They chose not to work or try career-related activities to try and make themselves stand out now that they are job hunting. She says many kids are now waking up after living off their parents and saying “Oh, I  guess I have to get a job now.” The job market is small and the competition is fierce. Graduates who haven’t tried to make themselves stand out are at a disadvantage.
  • Mentorship is not common. Davis says CU’s business school was very good at matching students with working professionals through their Professional Mentorship Program (PMP).  She knew of no other friends who had options for a mentor. While these programs may exist, it sounds like they were not promoted the way the B-school promoted their mentoring program. Did you have a mentor? Do you think this might help new grads get a foothold for their future?
  • Socially conscious jobs are the rage but are difficult to find. Many young people are interested in making a difference in the world. That’s great but many of these kinds of jobs are with non-profits that are either not paying their personnel or paying them very low wages. Likewise, the organizations tend to be small and don’t have a lot of capacity for tons of people.

So, with a soft economy and a generation who find motivation a little challenging, it is not surprising that finding a job is a challenge. According to an April 2012 Associated Press story, the Mountain West is the hardest hit area for recent grads’ unemployment or underemployment. Their story reported that 3 out of 5 graduates in this region fit one of these categories, the worst in the nation. (Remember: Las Vegas is in that number, as is California).

If that’s not discouraging enough, the same story reports that the government estimates that only 3 of the 30 highest demanded jobs in 2020 will require a college degree. Talk about serious competition!

“College graduates who majored in zoology, anthropology, philosophy, art history and humanities were among the least likely to find jobs appropriate to their education level; those with nursing, teaching, accounting or computer science degrees were among the most likely,” says the article.

Only the highest and the lowest classes will grow in the future, according to the report. Not good news for the middle class, an ever-shrinking group with more trouble on the horizon, in the form of our college graduate kids.

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One Response to 4 Reasons Why Young College Grads are Struggling

  • Robert says:

    Well, my degree is from Metro State College of Denver. I’m not so fortunate since it took years to graduate. I was a pass-fail high school grad who wonders how I obtained a BA in the first place. My single-mother parent didn’t finish college and nor did I have any mentor in early life. Military was the only other option foe r which I chose against. So, picking a career came late in my 20s. Now, its worse because I’m still underemployed along with a two-year layoff due to an accident injury. Looking for work after that was very challanging right when thousands of people are losing jobs. Occupations have been re-dubbed into new titles as well. I always had the assumption that university grads were more privilaged and were better at landing higher paying careers. I still hold on to that strong belief. But, I hear and read about people with masters degrees who can’t find work. Wanna be a CNA or a bilingual customer service rep? The frustration is that more jobs are requiring a willingness to do these stinking jobs of the 21st century. I miss the 20th century when spicier jobs were plentiful and less of a headache to get one. Since 2000, most of my previous employment doesn’t exist even today.

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