It’s not easy being perfect. Just ask any number of college graduates who spent their college careers trying to be just that. Students across the country obsess over extracurriculars, picking just the right ones to show off their skills, building resumes to exemplify every quality any employer would be lucky to have. They do everything right to land that dream job after college, hoping to move right into the rest of their lives in the same fashion. They graduate college expecting to continue their streak, but few anticipate such a horrible job market as the recent college graduates are dealing with now.
According to a study at Rutgers’s University, approximately 20 percent of recent college graduates are out of work, a startlingly high number for graduates who were expecting to start their careers that would carry them on in life. Other related statistics show an equally sorry state. According to the New York Times, the average starting salary for a college graduate dropped 10 percent from $30,000 to $27,000 between 2009 and 2010. According to Huffington Post, it is estimated that 85 percent of college graduates in the class of 2011 will move back in with their parents. Despite the preparedness of overachieving students, they can have just as hard a time finding a job as many average students are.
Melissa Small graduated from Keene State in 2011, with majors in secondary education and social studies. Small spent her time in college preparing for the real world, expecting her hard work would pay off with a middle school teaching position. Instead, it’s resulted in no permanent job. While in college, she was involved in athletics, National Collegiate Honors Society, was a coordinator for the America Reads program, and boasted a 3.5 GPA. “I thought all these things would help me show potential employers that I was dedicated to education and was a model person. Not the case,” Small said. Small says she has applied to well over 70 education related jobs and yielded only two interviews. “They told me I needed experience in the classroom. Keene’s supposed to be this really great education school for teachers, but their teachers can’t find jobs in the classroom.”
Previously, Small worked as a paraprofessional in a school, something that didn’t require a college degree. However, she left that job for a position working as a long-term substitute, which still doesn’t require a college degree. “The pay is awful, and come January I won’t have the job anymore, but it technically counts as classroom experience so I can’t turn it down.” While she wasn’t sure there was much the education department could do, Small wishes that the college had taught her more about networking. “I don’t know anyone in the education field and it hurts trying to find jobs. The only reason I got this sub job was because the interviewer knew my professor!”
It is not only future teachers facing the harsh realities of their degrees not paying off. Class of 2011 graduate Carey Mercier was a graphic design major and communication minor who stayed involved in a variety of things during her time at Keene. “I wanted to show employers I was able to work with a variety of people, not just other graphic design majors. I did things that didn’t necessary reflect my graphic interests, but other ones,” she said. Mercier was on the executive board of the Keene State Rugby team for three years, as well as the biology club. For an on-campus job, she also worked as a computer lab monitor, “I wanted to show them I could not only problem solve, but troubleshoot computers myself.”
Mercier graduated with a high GPA and visions of finding a reasonable paying job after graduation. Instead she returned back to her job working at Canobie Lake Park, which recently closed for the off season. “I was sending out 30 applications a week at my peak. I’ve sent out well over a hundred,” Mercier said, “The interviews come in waves. Right now it’s a dry spell.”
While getting involved in areas that interest you as long-term careers during your college years is important, it may not exactly create the type of resume employers are looking for. This is the case with Mike Steiner, a 2011 Keene State graduate in journalism. “I knew going in what I really wanted to do. I loved writing for the sports section of the paper. I wanted to do it forever.” Steiner’s decision to focus mainly on print sports coverage has made him a paltry candidate for some positions,.“They tell me I’m not well-rounded enough. I’ve given up on finding a sports writing position,” Steinter said, “ but I can’t even get something in sports statistics because there isn’t anything in my background related to that.”
Steiner also moved back in with his parents following graduation and has been unemployed since then. He says his father told him to make finding a job his full-time job.
Taking that to heart, Steiner says that he works 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day sending out applications and resumes hoping to get some sort of position. Steiner says he has sent out somewhere over 250 resumes over the course of the summer. “I have gotten in touch with every single contact I have ever made trying to find anything to get my foot in the door,. So far not a single thing has come of it.”
There are no statistics about highly qualified students versus other students and their career paths, but by most standards, these students would stand above their peers when it comes to looking for careers. Instead, these graduates had to move back in with their parents and turned their full-time jobs into simply hunting for a job to get them by.
“I graduated college and expected to start my life; instead, I graduated college and got to move back home and do what I did during high school and during the summers: nothing,” Small said.
Chelsea Mellin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.