It used to be a pretty commonly held belief that if you went to college, studied hard, and got a degree you quickly could land a steady, good paying job. But as the economy struggles to heal, college graduates find themselves working as baristas at the local Starbucks instead of the high-powered, high-paying jobs they hoped for.
25-year old Holly Howard has had lots of jobs over the last few years.
She’s worked at Verizon Wireless, with the elderly and mentally disabled, cleaning offices, packaging stickers in a factory, at a PBS station, in a laundromat, and at the Columbus Convention Center.
But none of them are the job she went to college for.
Howard really wants to work on “The Office,” a television show about, well, an office.
“But now that Steve Carrel’s not on there anymore I don’t really want to do it anymore,” Howard says. “I guess I just want to work in the entertainment industry.”
She graduated from Bowling Green University in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in popular culture and a minor in psychology. Instead of working in Hollywood, she’s moved in with her parents, saving money and looking for full-time work.
Howard’s situation is pretty typical, says Kacee Ferrell Snyder, assistant director of career development at Bowling Green.
“I’ve seen a fair amount of people that have worked in retail jobs or at Starbucks, not as a manager but sort of on the front lines doing customer service kinds of things and it doesn’t ever surprise me because I know that that’s just a reality for a fair amount of people,” Snyder explains.
Her position is brand new. It’s a response to people who graduated more than three years ago and find themselves looking for work. In fact, Snyder says universities around the country are adding offices to assist older alumni as the economy continues to falter.
Snyder sees a lot of frustrated young people in her office. People who assumed they would have no problem finding work, as long as they studied hard and got a degree.
Snyder says she feels like show owes it to tell people “‘going to college does not guarantee you a certain standard of life or a job or any of that kind of stuff.’ You have to be realistic with people and we owe it to them to prepare themselves to do what they need to do to be successful when they finish.”
This past spring, a study from Rutgers University found that nearly half the college graduates from 2010 were still job searching a year later. The unemployment rate for people with a Bachelor’s degree or more has hit a 30-year high.
John Webber with the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services says that wasn’t always the case.
“Usually when you got a college degree most people found a job within 3-4 months,” Webber says. “Now it’s taking a little bit longer.”
Weber says the biggest challenge young job-seekers face is not that they can’t apply for unemployment benefits or have less social support than older job seekers. It’s their competition.
“They may be a higher educated individual but they’re in strict competition with those with lesser education but 10 or 15 years of work experience,” he says.
That’s what Steve Ording found.
“The entry-level positions are all of a sudden 3–5 year experience demanded,” Ording says.
Ording has a finance degree from Bowling Green. He figured he’d have no problem landing a job right out of college. He dreamt of working in New York City, but it wasn’t long into his freshman year when things fell through.
“It just so happened to be 2007 at the height of the economy so I thought I was on my way to be a Wall Street analyst, I had my future ahead of me” says Ording. “And then next semester the economy crashed.”
Ording is actually a shining example of a successful job hunt these days. It only took him half a year to land a full time position, though he says that time felt like “forever.”
Ording’s new job isn’t the glamorous Wall Street gig he hoped for, but it’s a good job, in his hometown of Detroit.
As for that job in the Big Apple, he hasn’t given up yet Just pushed it off, until the economy improves a bit.