Eye on Education

College Grads Finding It Can Take Years to Land a Good Job

Ida Lieszkovszky / StateImpact Ohio

Holly Howard tries not to think about the bad economy as she searches for her dream job.

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.

Ida Lieszkovszky / StateImpact Ohio

Kacee Ferrell Snyder, Assistant Director of Career Development at Bowling Green, says it's not uncommon for college graduates to be job-searching for months or even years after graduating.

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.


  • Anonymous

    I want to pitch for the Yankees, but somehow my degree from bowling green university hasn’t prepared me for that job. Oh Well…. The unemployment rate for Computer programmers is under 4%. Pick the right major kids!

    • Holly


  • StudentsFirst

    I can appreciate that there are folks out there that think picking “the right major” will guarantee employment. However, why set up your life for misery? In other words, if students chose a major just based on the statistics, they have a great chance at not being happy with much at all. I can’t imagine trying to maintain, much less achieve, a decent GPA whilst disliking my major. Regardless, it’s not about the “right major”. It’s about creating jobs and leveling the playing field for most of us (the “99%”). The fault lies not on the student and their choice of a major.

    • Holly

      uh ok

  • Uncle Duke

    It is very unfortunate that the young woman profiled at the beginning of this story was unable to obtain a job, although her inability to find suitable employment in her chosen field can’t be blamed entirely on the economy as the premise of this story suggests. One only needs to look at what her degree and minor is and their applicability to the real world and also what her career goal is. A degree in popular culture? What type of job was she really thinking that she would land after college? Writing for People magazine? Her goal of working on the television program “The Office” seems to reflect very unrealistic thinking (immature) and limited goals. So you wanted to work on this show because Steve Correll was the star? What did yoiu think you would do on this show? Become his personal assistant? What about after the show ends? It sounds like some career guidance was needed before she entered college.

    A degree in television or film production would have been a better choice, or at least a degree in theater production or dramatic writing. A minor or even a degree in psychology is a bad choice unless you have some experience applying it in a paid or volunteer capacity. Even then, this is only a stepping stone to an advanced degree.

    Television and film production is a very competitive, cut-throat business with few entry level positions opening up. Most employers want at least a couple of years experience and getting a foot in the door is difficult,. Forget about getting in at a major Hollywood studio or at the network level. If you don’t have significant experience, impeccable references, or something to offer over other candidates (value added services/abilities/skills), then your resume gets tossed, or at best, scanned and saved only until the end of the FCC mandated compliance term.

    Fim and television production is tightly controlled by the trade and craft unions (IBEW, CWA, NABET, IATSE), although film production even more so. Want to become a camera operator or cinematographer? Get on the waiting list to take the union entrance exam as a camera assistant! IATSE in New York has at least three year waiting list to sit for the exam (hands-on and written). Want to work at the network? Good luck with that. If you’re not in the local union, you won’t get in. Forget about coming up through the ranks as a page, this is being eliminated at NBC and the number of pages that rise the ladder to production assistant, production associate, and higher has been very limited when pages were accepted.

    Apply for a job at the local PBS station or volunteer there. This will get you more hands-on experience, knowledge of the equipment, production techniques, and valuable references.
    Who knows, maybe you can get in at a medium market after a couple of years.

    • Holly

      screw you

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