Graduating students seek alternatives to job search
Published: Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
Senior Jesse Murphy, winner of the SMU bodybuilding competition this year, plans to ride his bike across the country this summer without a dollar to his name. He'll make his way across the states by camping and asking restaurants along the way if he can work for a meal.
The adventure will begin in Virginia and end in Oregon, for a total of 3,500 miles. Ryan Hawkins, a senior cinema television major, will be alongside filming for a documentary about a "coming of age journey."
They are currently looking for people to sponsor Murphy by donating to a charity in honor of his trip.
"It's going to be a good experience, and I hope it helps me find myself," Murphy said. "It'll be a time to figure things out about myself and what I want to do with my life."
Murphy and Hawkins are part of a growing number of graduates who choose alternatives to entering the job market immediately after college. Although taking some time off isn't too uncommon, more and more graduates are being forced to find an alternative to their "dream job" due to the economy and job market.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the national unemployment rate at 9.7 percent as of last month. Since 2000, the highest unemployment rate was 10.1 percent in October 2009.
With an unemployment rate near the decade high, many graduates are still having difficulty securing a job. Competing with Americans of all ages for a job, many college graduates feel a disadvantage when applying for jobs, since many of these people have been in the workforce before and have real world experience.
If graduates do find a job, they are often settling for less money. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that the average salary for a graduate with a bachelor's degree is $48,351, which is down two percent from last year.
Employers seem to realize graduates are often desperate to find a job and offer them lower pay, knowing they will probably be willing to work for less than they should be making.
Although it's mostly undergraduates who seek unpaid internships, more graduating students are now also accepting them. While the experience can be very beneficial, graduates should be careful not to be simply used by companies for free labor. Nezare Chafni, SMU senior, said an unpaid internship after college would only be worthwhile if it were with a very respectable company. Experience, along with a strong recommendation from a big company, would be the only payoffs.
Another route students are taking to avoid the current job market is graduate school. According to the Council of Graduate Students, enrollment in graduate programs has increased by 32 percent from 1998 to 2008. By pursuing further education, students are able to increase their qualification for jobs, as well as delay the job search in hope of an economic turnaround.
Programs like Teach for America are gaining popularity as well. Applications have increased by 30 percent, or more, annually for the past three years. Some graduates are attracted to the idea of giving back to the community, rather than paying for graduate school, while they wait for an upturn in the economy. The fact that it looks great on a resume for future employers is just an added bonus.
Ranging from biking across the country to pursuing a higher degree, more graduates are choosing alternative options rather than immediately entering the workforce. Although it may not be the job they hoped for after earning a degree, graduates will still gain experience and knowledge about themselves and the world.