So, you’ve done it. You’ve slaved away, consuming a handful of precious years of your youth to obtain that ever elusive degree.
After countless hours of caffeine-induced cramming, meals of $0.99 ramen packets and trying to pry your eyelids open during early morning lectures, there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel. Graduation looms on the edge of your horizon, both a celebratory event and a fear that makes you want to crawl back into your bed and never face the world again.
Here’s the reality of the situation: Having a bachelor’s degree simply does not guarantee you secure placement in today’s economy. No employer cares if you’ve read Dante’s “Inferno” three times or scored an A in Mr. No-One-Passes’ course. What they want to see is experience: Valid proof on paper that indicates you are ready to take on a full-time position with their company. However, it’s more complicated than you might think. Even “entry-level” positions seem to require years of prior experience, which you often don’t have due to the fact that you were completely preoccupied by Dante and tough professors for the past few years.
My parents always stressed the absolute necessity of procuring a degree from a reputable college or university. Without said degree, they claimed, I wouldn’t have a shot anywhere. With it, I was guaranteed a well-paying job fairly soon after graduation. Today’s statistics, however, don’t say the same. Eight percent of recent grads are spending their days jobless, and 44 percent hold jobs that do not utilize the degree they toiled so long to earn.
My question is, what changed? Millennials everywhere are moving back into their parents’ basements after graduating from college. In fact, more 18- to 34-year-olds are living with their parents now than in any other living arrangement. Many grumpy old timers lament the loss of a generation, saying millennials have grown up to be entitled brats who are simply afraid of elbow grease. After all, the job market of 2016 is better than it’s been in a long time.
Why aren’t millennials getting out there and starting their own lives, free of their parents’ support? There are several reasons people in their twenties are resorting to free living and floundering when seeking gainful employment, and some of them might surprise you.
1. Experience Is More Valuable Than Education
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve clicked on a link for an entry-level job application, only to exasperatedly throw my hands up in the air when I realize they require ten years of experience, two Olympic gold medals, a Nobel prize and other ridiculously impossible demands. Okay, I might be embellishing a tiny bit, but even so, I consistently feel that the requirements are a little over the top.
Then, I talked to a recruiter at a large company, and she imparted some gems of wisdom to me: Those years don’t have to come from a full-time position. They can come from internships (paid or unpaid), relevant courses or hobbies. She advised me not to interpret those prior years of experience as a mandatory requirement. “Prove that you know what you’re doing, however you can do that. They know you’ve gotten a good education. Now, give them evidence that indicates you know how to use your skills.”
The problem is, many students (like me) don’t immediately comprehend that those years of experience aren’t always compulsory. We’ve been taught to play by the rules in school, but sometimes, job searching requires a little wiggle room.
2. College Doesn’t Hand You a Job
As graduation hurtles toward seniors like a train gathering speed on a track, every student prays for a miracle. They check their email twice a day and cross their fingers, hoping for someone or something to rip them off the terrifying track and to place them in a secure, gratifying position.
Unfortunately, there is no magic job fairy sprinkling luck on desperate seniors. Job searching takes weeks or even months of dedication, and knowing how to hunt for a position doesn’t always come naturally. If you’re attempting to line up a job while still balancing your full-time studies, you might feel you’re being torn between the two activities.
It’s a struggle to wrench yourself away from that 15-page paper you have due tomorrow to respond to emails or do some networking on LinkedIn. It’s no wonder college students often wait until their studies die down before tackling the search wholeheartedly.
Some industries are far more competitive than others but still require the same amount of dedication in order to get into. Technology has helped in easing this gap though; software engineer jobs in Colorado, for example, are leveraging growth and need prospective candidates to fill up positions.
3. Millennials Aren’t Looking to Stay, and Employers Know That
Eighty years-ago, people joined companies they planned to stay with long-term. Fellow employees and bosses became family, and it was considered normal to pledge allegiance and buckle down for a settled career. It wasn’t uncommon to switch jobs only once or twice before retiring.
Now, millennials expect to change jobs or even careers multiple times over the next few decades. In a recent poll, 66 percent of millennials stated that they only planned on staying with their current job for the next five years at most. Obviously, this affects how businesses are hiring and training their employees.
They’re adjusting how they screen and who they pick to put in positions of leadership. Although no company really expects an employee to stay forever, loyalty is still important to many hardworking hirers. If they know you’re planning on jumping ship as soon as you’ve got a year of experience under your belt, they’re less likely to take you on for a high paying position.
Despite these disappointing but valid points, there is a glimmer of hope. As I said previously, the job market is healthier than it’s been in years, and many sources point to a more fulfilling future for college graduates in the upcoming years.
Universities are bulking up their career services departments and attempting to help their students balance the job search with their taxing studies. Alumni are also doing their part to help grads get on their feet. With any luck, rates of post-graduation unemployment will continue to decrease, and millennials will be able to find jobs that they’re proud to discuss with others.