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College, Unemployment and Finding Work: 10 Ways to DIVERSIFY!

Updated on July 25, 2013

Don't Ever Feel Like This!

Avoid post-collegiate unemployment
Avoid post-collegiate unemployment | Source

The Promise.

The jig is up with higher education.

I will never forget one statistic. It came in a meeting with the sweet, endearing academic advisor of a top-ranked public administration program. The statistic: 99%. It applied to professional job placement after receiving the number 3 ranked degree in the nation for city management.

After several cups of coffee, a seat in a comfortable leather chair, and a few free candies from her jar I was sold.

They had me at 99%

The Letdown.

As a proud member of generation Y, I had been told from a youth "go to college, get good grades, go to graduate school, and a professional degree is better."

The MPA is considered a professional degree. I got my good grades, kept my head down, and graduated.

To no job. For two years. I had been employed before attending school.

When I get a Delorean, I'm going full Marty McFly back into that meeting to tell myself the following:


I, unfortunately, would have had to give myself, and you some bad news.

The unemployment rate for recent graduates is 7.9%. That statistic can be misleading. This doesn't include the underemployed (engineers turned fry cooks), part-time employment, self-employment, people who were given a job in a family business, and is disproportionally high if you have no hard skills.

Individuals with no college had double the unemployment rate.

College loans are more costly than ever, with congress approving an interest rate hike on stafford loans and reductions in map grants.

Additionally, although you may have been raised to believe that the college degree is the most important tool in staying on a route to the corner office instead of the breadline, it is not. The link below, by time, indicates that experience is held in much higher regard by hiring executives.

They're already painfully aware of how out of touch our higher education system is with the skills and maturity needed to succeed in real life.

You Are Your Greatest Investment: Diversify!

I see the issue as being relatively simple: too many young workers (especially our smartest) have chosen the safe bet, and the market for a 40 hour a week, 401k, "stable" job has become over-saturated.

My degree is administrative, like many others that are popular during this era (MBA, Public Health, Healthcare Admin., Park District Management, Retail Management, Planning). This means if someone that combs through 200 resumes per posting thinks your degree does not have loads of value, you're going to be stuck with Mom for another 10 years. And I haven't even said a word about liberal arts degrees yet (no offense, I've seen them work occasionally).

What was a safe bet, is no longer.

Many high risk propositions are actually a better play.

10 Options for Diversification

I do not believe there is a one size fits all solution for everyone. Here, however, are options for you.

  1. Go ahead with higher education, but ask yourself the key questions. Can I practice this skill without being hired? What are the 3, 5, 10, and 25 year outlooks for my profession? How diverse is my skill set? What does the competition look like? The yes or no decision is much more complex than "school will rescue me from certain death."
  2. Keep your other skills sharp. Never assume that one of them might not come in handy later. During my unemployment, I found myself wishing I had learned Spanish, or how to fix furnaces, or how to code HTML.
  3. Find your past passions. Reconnect with things you used to love to do. Be an opportunist. Some of the things you put down may actually be what you were supposed to do instead of "real" work. I had a friend who was having a difficult time with post collegiate employment- and all she became was a touring rock and roll singer. Not bad at all.
  4. Stay off of Craigslist. It's scary there. Make the bad man go away. Be on the lookout also, for multi level marketing scams, exploitative internships, and quid-pro-quo "professionals."
  5. Keep the bar hopping to a minimum. You're going to need all of the time, money and energy you can get.
  6. Brainstorm, and get advice. Go through entrepreneurial magazine. Always be asking yourself how you would run, promote, and create a business. For example, analyze the arrangement of cookies at the bakery. Look at the content on this site and ponder how you would write it better.
  7. NETWORK. HARD. This might be 9-10 times more important than your actual GPA. People don't hire the most capable. They hire who they like. If you find yourself at an event, be very opened about your interests professionally.
  8. Be helpful and sociable. During the past 2 years, I have received a lot of help from friends. Never discount anyone. Every connection is very valuable.
  9. Volunteer everywhere. The millennials are an entitled generation. Prove them wrong, and you will stand out.
  10. Know yourself intimately. What do you have that others don't? If you're motivated, how about speaking to the depressed (they'll pay a premium). If you're strong, perhaps you can train others bodies. If you're a mediocre writer, comment below (just kidding).

Go Forth

In conclusion, the first world post graduate job market is hellacious, and studies have shown that parents are still valuing the college degree more than the actual market. You can navigate the murky waters of professional success, but survival is not a given for simply having a college degree. The next generation of successful people will mirror earlier generations: it will consist of the already rich, and the very opportunistic. Let's aim for the latter.


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    • Efficient Admin profile image

      Efficient Admin 4 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      This is great advise for baby boomers as well. This job market is the toughest I have ever seen.

    • BigJulesMags profile image

      Julian Magdaleno 4 years ago from Queens, New York City

      Haha and as a citizen I can say, you're welcome U.S. Air Force.

    • profile image

      Ryan M 4 years ago

      Good stuff, man. I used to have a negative perspective on those who don't get degrees, but it's making less and less sense. Grads are so crippled by debt that they can't have a meaningful contributor to society (i.e. engineers gone fry cooks). I'm just SO, SO thankful I don't have to worry about this stuff for another 12 or so years. Thank you, US Air Force.