Recent College Grads – Stop Whining, the Economy Isn’t to Blame

Over the past few weeks I have been casually monitoring my Alma mater’s alumni LinkedIn group. It should come as no surprise that it has been flooded with job seeking recent graduates who left the hollowed halls of school in May and now need to face the realities of full time employment.

There are many who appear frustrated with their job search. They are blaming the economy for their lack of employment. While it is true that a tough economy makes job seeking in some sectors difficult, the hard truth is a college education is NOT a ticket to wealth and job security – and at least in modern history, it never was.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics employment for 20 – 24 year olds has fallen in 2009, but it hasn’t crashed. Although the data can not be sorted by education status, I believe it is safe to assume that college graduates aren’t taking on a larger burden of the lower employment rate than the average 20-24 year old. And in fact, most studies show employment rates for college educated persons are in fact higher than for those who have not received a bachelor’s degree.

What can we conclude? A college education is valuable. It’s where we learn to write thoughtfully. It’s where we teach ourselves how to negotiate and debate wisely. It’s the place we are thrust to live on our own and learn how to organize our lives. For most, its also the place we learn to live off of take out, to pull all nighters, and to funnel beer. If you’re lucky it is the place you use intern opportunities to find your passion.

And while a college education is all of these things and more, it has never been a replacement for building experience. Bottom line when you leave college you have new, valuable skills but your dream job must still be earned.

I graduated college in the early 90’s. I was 21, and like today’s graduates, felt entitled to my ideal job. After buying the perfect interview suit, practicing my confidence building handshake and writing thoughtful cover letters to dozens of potential employers I learned quickly that I was competing for sparse positions against highly experienced personal. Disillusioned but determined to pay my bills I took a job going door to door selling restaurant coupons. In three months I learned I was pretty good at sales but as summer became fall, and my territory became more remote I was cold, tired and unsatisfied. I wanted that “real” job I had never stopped waiting to fall into place. But, something had changed. This time I opened my search to include sales positions. To make a long story short I ended up working for a temp agency. On my second placement I ended up working for a high growth technology company in their channel sales group. Although I had never intended to enter the high tech market, I had found an extremely talented executive team, a mentor and a whole new “un-entitled” attitude that made me eager to learn and fast to succeed.
More than 15 years later I am the Vice President of Marketing for a technology company. I love what I do and I’m proud of everything that I’ve accomplished.
My advice to recent college grads. Take a deep breath. Stop whining. And buckle up. The ride is just beginning. And if you’re patient you’ll learn it can be a lot of fun.