Today’s New York Times features a front page article entitled “Many with New College Degree Find the Job Market Humbling”.
The high unemployment rate for new grads is bad news, and the fact that many have crippling debt is terrible. What is not being addressed is the lack of preparation of so many graduating college seniors. Now that’s a statistic I’d like to see.
The Major Matters
The article mentions that those with teaching and engineering degrees have a much higher employment rate than those with degrees in area studies and the humanities. Not a big surprise; the surprise is when those with degrees that don’t directly correlate to a field haven’t figured out a plan—whether it’s working in another country or finding another way to shore up experience that will resonate with an employer.
You Can Gain Experience in College—or Even High School
There is so much you can do in college besides study. This is the time for experimentation—with new ideas, contacts, volunteer gigs and internships. Not sure how your degree connects to a career path? Start talking with people who have majored in your subject and see if their career paths resonate with you. Start trying out the world of work through pro bono work. Attend interesting lectures and network with the speakers. Talk to your advisor about your outside interests and align your coursework with those interests. Definitely do this in college, but if you can start doing it in high school, even better!
There is no reason to wait until you’ve graduated to do any of these things. The problem is that students are waiting until it’s too late and they’ve graduated in a down market with no idea of what they want to do. That is a surefire way to end up stocking shelves at Walmart.
The people I interviewed for my book who are getting the jobs in a bad economy are market-ready, no matter what their major. Companies are only hiring the new grads who are already thinking commercially, and have been thinking practically about their careers for some time. So if you’re still in school, it’s not too late to start thinking long-term about your career—unless you want to be another unemployment statistic.