I truly feel for the current and coming generation of brilliant young minds graduating from colleges and universities all over the US. If any of them are in my situation, they have a mighty challenge ahead.
Growing up I was always told that the track to a good life was the following:
1. Graduate from High School and get into a reputable college
2. Pick a major/career path that you are passionate about
3. Work hard and graduate from said college
4. Find a job in that career path…
College graduates will have spent four years of their lives gaining life experience, an education, and generally about $30,000 to prepare themselves for a bright future. The only problem is that irresponsible adults have come in and messed up the world in which we are about to enter. The financial crisis has put a strain on lending and caused any scholarships that were available to dry up sending those of us trying to finish our education further into debt. Those of us that have graduated are placed under stricter repayment guidelines with little to no mercy on our student loans. It sets us up for a one shot plan. For those of us able to enter the job market and find a decent salary in a stable job are able to survive, but one minor slip up or one layoff causes us to fail immediately.
I recall sitting in a class during my freshman year hearing a professor tell me some words of encouragement. “You guys have no idea how lucky you are. The economy as it is continues to improve. There are more jobs available now than there ever have been before. Employers are looking for college graduates and older employees are leaving the workforce to enter retirement. You guys are set up for a bright future” Those words stuck with me until about the middle of my junior year when the housing market began to flop. It was then I realized the magnitude of struggle I was about to enter into.
As a graduate of the class of 2009, I was entitled to an unstable economy with little to no job openings. I was being given the opportunity to take part in the workforce where workers reaching retirement were afraid to retire. All this because the social security system that had been paid into for so many years was disappearing due to people living longer lives. I guess advances in health care aren’t always a good thing. People staying in their jobs meant no openings for the inexperienced. The job cycle that had been running smoothly for decades had come to a screeching halt. My graduating class with bachelor degrees and hopes held high were forced to take positions at minimum wage or less for part time hours and no benefits all with a mountain of debt on our back and no hope for advancement. Those of us that had enough money were able to stay in school to try and ride it out, but everyone else was out of luck.
One of the best metaphors I’ve ever heard that works for this situation talks about flight school. We grew up with our parents telling us that they believed we could fly. We went to our grade schools and high schools to learn the basics of physics, aerodynamics, and flight. We were then sent to an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean to learn how to fly our specific aircraft that we chose to carry us throughout the rest of our days in the air. Upon our graduation from flight school, we were instructed to hop in our respective planes and fly off into the world. We were all nervous as we approached the end of the flight deck. Our wheels cleared the edge of the ship and suddenly the plane began to drop rapidly towards the ocean. Everything in the plane seemed to be fine and we couldn’t understand why we continued to fall. As we continued to plummet towards the ocean, our minds ran over what we had learned in school. Flaps, check. Fuel, check. Throttle, check. The only thing that was missing from the equation was the air around us that had disappeared in an instant and suddenly the entire squadron fell into the ocean. It was a loss that just seemed to be looked past by the rest of the world. Although they were struggling to stay up, as long as they continued flying it was all that mattered.
Yes it seems completely negative but I have seen it happen so quickly. I was the first one out of my class to find a job straight out of college. It was terrible hours and nowhere near what I graduated with but it was a job. After 1 month, the company was starting to feel the pressures of the economy and because I was the last one in I was definitely the first to go. Three job losses later, I am looking for a part time position just so I can continue paying the bills. I couldn’t have made it as far as I have without two supportive families that have taken care of me every step of the way. Others who haven’t had that luxury may be in worse situations.
Today I started laughing after thinking to myself that I spent four years of my life and over $30,000 to get a piece of paper that means nothing now. I am actually considering going to a technical school to learn a trade just so I can find a job that will help me survive. It’s ridiculous to think that people are actually dealing with this. A BACHELORS DEGREE DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING ANYMORE!
I pray that those looking for jobs will find something to help them survive and that somehow the economy will change so that employers will actually want to help those in my generation.