Thursday, June 04, 2015

This doesn't seem quite fair now, does it?

The good news for those just graduating from college is that this the best job market in a decade. Or so they have been told. The bad news is that:
The Class of 2015 will likely see lower wages than cohorts who graduated into better job markets for as long as 15 years. Other research has found that a rising number of recent graduates take low-skill and service jobs that don't make use of their degrees. Since 2000, the share of recent college graduates taking such low-wage jobs as bartending, cashier work, and food service has steadily increased. Last year, 46 percent of young college graduates worked jobs that didn't require a bachelor's degree, up from 38 percent in 2007, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As the Atlantic's Derek Thompson recently wrote, "the era of the overeducated barista is here to stay." (Source: Bloomberg
I am quite happy that I came of age when, if you spent a couple of years in the 1970's equivalent of a barista position, you weren't doomed for the rest of your career.

After graduating from college, I spent a year figuring out that I wasn't cut out to get a PhD in political science. I then spent the next year or so waitressing and traveling, first throughout the United States, and then backpacking and hitchhiking around Europe. I then logged more time than I care to remember in lousy office jobs, mostly through temping, before I fumbled my way into business school and a fairly decent career. Oh, maybe if I hadn't spent my twenties in crappy jobs I would have forged a more wondrous and glorious fortune for myself. But I had decent jobs, made good money, and ended up with wonderful friends. 

That was, of course, a far different time. Globalization and outsourcing were just starting to impact the work world. And if the industry I worked in - technology - was volatile, and you couldn't count on today's company being there tomorrow, there was (almost) always something out there for you.

Not for these kids, I'm afraid.

They're not only coming out of college saddled (many of them) with crazy, mortgage level debt. They're in a job market that, while 'the best in years' still may not have something to offer everybody.

Some of this is, of course, the new graduate's choice: a super-impractical major, and grandiose expectations about what a super-impractical degree was going to turn into, job-wise. But a lot of it is luck, and your network, and - let's face it - the school you went to. A classics major from Yale is going to get job offers that a more practically-minded "communications" major from Podunk Community is going to find. And the world is just so much less forgiving than it was way back when. Twenty years ago, even a mediocre graduate of a mediocre school could probably find their way onto a career path more promising that barista.

But that's the way of the world.

Still, I'd like to think that those baristas, and the "idlers" - the 10+ percent of recent college grads who are, depressingly, neither working nor in grad school, might be able to make up for lost time - can get some more practical training, etc., find themselves a decent job, and be the better for it.

Crappy jobs build character. Travel broadens your outlook. Working as a barista while "pursuing your passion" (gag) for competitive kayaking or haiku in Swedish may turn you into a more interesting person than you might have been if you'd taken a job as a junior accountant the day after you tossed your mortarboard.

Glad I got out when I did...

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