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The Plight of the Unemployed Recent College Graduate

Updated on December 25, 2012

College Educated But Unemployed-What Are We To Do?

We have been inundated with the idea that college education was the ticket to the affluent way of life. Studies have authenticated that college graduates were the last people to be unemployed and were most likely to be employed than high school graduates. More studies showed that college graduates earned a million dollars during their lifetimes while high school graduates would earn one tenth of that!

However, since the late 1970s, college education did not necessarily guarantee a high-paying job. I remember when I graduated college in 1976, there were college graduates, some with honors, who had to take jobs as store clerks, secretaries, and administrative clerks. Many bemoaned the fact that they attended college. I distinctly remembered one young woman crying to me about how her college education was a "waste". She relayed to me that she would have been better off working and starting her own business which she ultimately intended to do.

I remembered pacing the pavement looking for an entry level job specifically for college graduates. I presented myself professionally; however, the interviewer informed me that those jobs required ONE YEAR of office experience. I informed that I worked a summer job at the Youth Corp and volunteered for Cancer Care. The interviewer further informed me that my work experience was sporadic to say the least.

I then attended graduate school but I felt that this would be more of a waste of time. I left and began to furiously look for employment again for college-level positions. I was told ad infinitum that I needed to possess related work experience. Oh well, I decided to attend secretarial school to gain some typical skills. Okay, I thought with my newly acquired typing skills, I would at least get a foot in the door.

I was able to temp at this time, performing varied clerical and typing duties. I obtained my first full-time job. Was it the job of my dreams- no it was not! It was more like an infernal nightmare. Even though I took the civil service test as a typist, I was assigned clerical duties. I hated the job intensely and made it known!

I wanted to quit immediately but my parents informed me that at 25 years of age, I was to be self-supporting and not to quit the job until something better came along. My attitude manifested itself on the job. I perfunctorily performed the job. I informed anyone who was interested that a rhesus monkey could perform the job! I wanted OUT and I frankly did not care HOW I got out!

I thought at this time that I would RATHER be unemployed and wait until a job suited to my intellect and education would come along. Instead of taking advancement tests, I just complained and returned to college, taking business administration courses. I subsequently obtained a Certification in Business Administration!

I still complained about my job. My mother suggested that I should take some civil service tests as there were many opportunities. I HATED civil service and just wanted out! Of course, there were tests but I was not interested at all! I just meandered. Well, my supervisor at the time, noticed my unprofessionalism and totally unpleasant behavior, electing to transfer me out of her department! Good!

I was sent to the typing section. I stayed there until I was subsequently promoted to a supervisory position in another office. The administrative typist, my second supervisor, give me good recommendations. When I became a supervisor, my attitude drastically improved and within two and a half years, I was finally hired as a Human Rights Specialist where I remained until my retirement. My job as Human Rights Specialist was suited to my education and major which was Sociology.

I learned so much from that job. I interfaced with various peoples and cultures. Furthermore, I learned to hone my writing and reporting skills. As you see, it took me years to obtain a job related to my education and my field.

I have digressed at great length. College graduates and some postgraduates had difficult times looking for commensurate positions and careers since the late 1970s. There were intermittent recessions and downturns during part of the 1980s and 1990s. They also had to make do and accept jobs that were beneath them educationally.

Now, it is 2011. During the latter part of 2009 into 2011, there has been a serious recession. The job prospect for college graduates can be described as extremely dismal. Many of them believe that they will be lucky to find ANY job, let alone a job commensurate to their education and/or field. The smarter ones among them do have internships which give them a bargaining chip regarding job opportunities after graduation. Organizations and firms usually hire inhouse. This means that students who do internships at that particular organization and/or firm have a greater likelihood of being hired by the same organization and/or firm because of a proven work history.

Other students, because of parental and related connections, are able to secure prime jobs without no difficulty. Many graduates are looking for employment the new and old fashioned ways.i.e. through internet and/or studying newspapers want ads. Because of the often precarious socioeconomic situation, many graduates are electing to further their education by obtaining Masters and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in their particular fields. They want to stave off looking for work until they have more and/or better credentials. Still others who attending graduate schools to avoid looking for work!

There are college graduates who have completely given up on looking for work because they find the prospects of looking for employment very dismal. They are among the ranks of the unemployed. Many of them would balk at the prospect of taking non-college positions which they consider to be beneath them. Also, their parents disadvise against it because they contend that if their children take a non-college position, they will lessen and ruin their opportunities for a job better suited to their education. I remember people saying to college graduates never take a non-college job because they will be locked into that job FOREVER and it would be difficult to advance one's career from that point!

Many people maintain that college graduates who take non-college jobs are unintelligent and losers. To these people, these college graduates are considered to be subpar and will be viewed negatively by the job interviewer especially if they decide to apply for more high powered and prestigious jobs. There are many recruiters and corporate hunters who will not look at college graduates who work at such subpar jobs because it is considered that they have NO ambition and would rather take an unemployed college graduate who did not work a subpar job because it showed that the latter had the intelligence to wait until a more suitable job arrived!

Many unemployed college graduates scoff at their counterparts who elect to take a non-college job as unfortunate and desperate. These unemployed college graduates often view taking a subpar job as the kiss of death. They would rather volunteer and take internships, paid and/or unpaid than to work at a subpar job which is a career killer.

In a way, I totally agree with them. College graduates in non-college jobs are actually wasting their human potential. Take it from me, when I worked in typing and clerical positions, I felt that the jobs were beneath me and a waste of time. I did not learn anything from those jobs and was there just to wait until something better came along! In other words, I was just marking time on those jobs!

Any college graduate who has a non-college job is undergoing a numbing experience at best-he/she is clearly not learning anything significant from these jobs. Furthermore, because they start at non-college jobs, it will take them longer to reach their particular level of success! In fact, they will be less successful in life than a college graduate who was savvy enough to wait and start at a position which is commensurate with his/her education. I have personally known college graduates who do not work at all for YEARS, waiting unil they obtained jobs and/or careers commensurate with their educations.

However, there are extremely smart and savvy college graduates who elect to start an online business and/or entrepreneurship. They refuse to let this precarious economic climate deter them from ultimately achieving their goals. The luckiest college graduates are those who majored in mathematics, technology, business, science, and medicine. They will always obtain jobs, even six figured jobs, because their skills will always be in demand. The hardest hit of course are the liberal arts and humanities graduates!

In summation, the adage that a college education is a guarantee of the more affluent life has been a thing of the past since the late 1970s. College graduates, especially those who majored in the liberal arts and humanities, had to either take non-college jobs, remained unemployed until they found the jobs commensurate with their education, pursued unpaid and/or paid internships, and/or volunteered during times of economic downturns.

However, not all college graduates have such dismal prospects. Those who majored in subjects such as mathematics, business, medicine, and other hardcore technical/scientific subjects have a much easier time finding employment. There are those who are extremely hardy, deciding to ditch traditional employment and establishing their own makeshift businesses. In other words, one makes one's own destiny!

© 2011 Grace Marguerite Williams


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    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      6 years ago from New Jersey

      I think a degree is not as important now, as nobody has technical skills. Instead of having senior year in HS, they should go back to metal and wood shop, cooking, balancing a checkbook. My son graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2010, and is substitute teaching yet. He has a good chance and is somewhat holding out for a lower grade, as young men face sexism when they like working with younger kids. He just wants to teach them while they still like school. Some of his friends went on to get Masters degrees, but depending on your field, you are pricing yourself out of the entry level jobs. It's hard and I feel for them. Many of them are living home longer!

    • Mindy Meisel profile image

      Mindy Meisel 

      7 years ago from Austin, Texas

      My daughter will be finishing a three year graduate program in the spring and this is our biggest fear. I've been pushing that internship idea since day one, and even those positions haven't been available in this day and age. Starting a freelance business will probably be the only option to generate income while the wait begins.

    • quatrain profile image


      7 years ago

      How right you are, especially about the point that graduates who decide to ditch "tradtional employment and establish their own makeshift businesses" can do well. Case in point of course is Mark Zuckerberg who left college early and followed his heart to start Facebook.

    • gmwilliams profile imageAUTHOR

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      7 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      To lorenmurcia: You have made some excellent points as usual. I remember when I graduated from college, there were C students in my school. However, they obtained the BETTER positions after college while we better students had to scrape by for years!

      I remember one woman in particular who had a cumulative grade index of 2.20 and she obtained a prestigious job working for City Hall right after she graduated! I am still nonplussed about this to this day. She was not particularly a bright woman.

      In fact, her high school guidance counselor maintained that she was NOT college material. We smarter students, on the contrary, had to take sub-par clerk typing and administrative clerical positions for YEARS until we could found jobs commensurate with our educations! That was not fair in the least! We were more deserving of the prestigious positions than those C students! I concur with your analysis of the situation!

    • lorenmurcia profile image


      7 years ago

      Recent college graduates would really find it hard to land a job especially when they were not serious in their studies. How can an employer be impressed with low grades? There are more deserving applicants. And yet, the jobs are really scarce even for outstanding college graduates. Voted up, useful because reading this hub will give them an idea on what to expect when they venture into the "real" world.


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