College grads: Home for the holidays and beyond

A few weeks ago, I posted a NYT story on twin college grads in desperate search of jobs in Manhattan. The Washington Post now has published a similar saga, only this bright young graduate is not crammed in an apartment with five friends subsisting on Ramen noodles, but back at home eating dinner with mom and dad.

The long piece on former valedictorian, class president and Senate intern Melissa Meyer includes this great passage:

For 23 years, she had advanced down America’s path to success — perfect grades, a $200,000 college degree, a folder overstuffed with business cards — only to have it dead-end back where she started.

“What was the point?” she asks.

For Melissa, that question is the legacy of the recession as she rises one Tuesday morning in early fall and begins her day with the same routine that defined her adolescence. She rummages through her parents’ refrigerator, eats leftovers from a dinner party hosted by her parents the night before and then retreats upstairs to prepare for a fill-in shift at the same job she held throughout high school. After changing into cowboy boots and a skirt, she borrows her parents’ car and drives three minutes to work at Rockin’ Rudy’s, a record store with a peace sign hanging at the entrance.

The shop smells of incense. Classic rock plays through speakers. Customers come and go in tie-died T-shirts as Melissa stands behind a register and rings up CDs, bandanas and a gigantic bronze frog.

Midway through her shift, a man approaches the counter ready to buy three necklaces. He introduces himself as a palm reader. Melissa sticks out her hand.

“I know nothing about my future,” she says.

We are all hearing stories about talented college grads who can’t find jobs, both in the news and in our own lives. I think it’s likely in a few years that we’ll read that most of these twenty-somethings have since found jobs and are back on track. (This story suggests Melissa may change tracks.)

After looking at the photo gallery with the Post story, I can only say that if I were without job prospects, I’d like to at least be in Montana for the breathtaking scenery.

21 comments Add your comment

Big Al

November 20th, 2009
4:53 pm

The world needs check-out clerks, too.


November 20th, 2009
5:05 pm

One problem is that many parents encourage their college enrolled children to major in whatever interests them; regardless if jobs exist for their chosen profession. Yes, I mean liberal arts. If your degree cost you more than you hope to earn, there is a serious disconnect [in your head]. I doubt that many accounting and finance students are having these problems securing gainful employment.


November 20th, 2009
5:45 pm

I know of education majors that can’t find a job. Most local school systems did not have job fairs last spring. It doesn’t matter what you majored in, you still may find yourself searching for longer than expected.

26 year old

November 20th, 2009
5:58 pm

In response to the first two postings, being from a graduating class from the past 5 years, I can acknowledge first-hand how many of my friends have had problems with the job market. And none are liberal arts majors, most are finance/business majors. I also have two friends with MBA’s still unemployed, another that has a law degree and passed the bar that has had his employment pushed back over a year now. All are from good schools – UGA, Ga Tech, University of Viginia Law School, Kansas State MBA, etc. I have four friends who have had to move back in with their parents. Another friend whose started a business as an entrepreniur and had it fail with lack of investment.

In short, it is disheartening for my age group to go through this. When we college in 2000, we saw many less-qualified people around us have jobs upon graduation. It is very disheartening – you are taught to do the right things and you do them, and yet we still do not get hired. Too many questions these days – will there be entreprenuership anymore with no one investing in us? Can I make a leap to another career or do I have to stick this one out? We do feel for the older generation since their retirement portfolios are no longer robust – but will our generation even have a portfolio to lose? The days of doing the right thing – going to school, getting a degree and subsequently getting a job – are over. And it’s not just over for the liberal arts majors.


November 20th, 2009
6:16 pm

It is a tough world out there for almost everyone, including those who feel like they have “played by the rules”: stayed in school, stayed out of debt, avoided the wild life, avoided having children they couldn’t afford, etc.

Being in the situation is bad; being in the same situation at age 50+ is even worse.


November 20th, 2009
6:33 pm

Our daughter graduated last year with a degree from Georgia Tech and tried for 6 months to find a job. She wasn’t picky – she looked all over the U.S., was willing to relocate, went on numerous interviews, and sent out hundreds of resumes to no avail.She wanted to work a while first before getting further schooling but then decided to go ahead with her masters when she couldn’t find a job. She decided to go back to get her Masters/Doctorate and was able to get a full scholarship and a graduate assistantship which pretty much pays all her bills. We’re hoping that with the additional education she will be able to be better qualified in her field to compete with people who are out of work and looking in the same area. She also has a lot of friends from Tech who are in the same position, or are working in places outside their field of study just to have a job at all.


November 20th, 2009
6:39 pm

I can’t remember the last time recent college graduates were not infected with the “Post Graduate Blues” I had a rather severe case back in 1975. Hang in there and things will work out…maybe not exactly like you thought they would…but they do work out.


November 20th, 2009
6:44 pm

I don’t know, I tend to agree with 26 year-old. It is disheartening to feel like our age group may have been passed by, and that this economic climate was caused by a generation before us who, though struggling, at least have relevant experience, work history, a larger network, and have already made some money. I worry that when (if?) we do recover, the available jobs will be going to kids coming out of college then – I will be in my 30s and fighting for an entry-level job. Let’s not forget that entry-level jobs pay LESS, NOT adjusted for inflation, than they did even 10 years ago. I am 28 with a Masters degree, and very few prospects. We were told that to do well we had to go to college; meanwhile a college education was becoming so unaffordable that we had to take out student loans. Those loans have now come due, and I don’t have a job to show for my education. It has been a tough couple of years, and it is very hard not to feel that my generation has gotten the shaft.


November 20th, 2009
7:33 pm

Right on, Harpoon. I would guess I faced the post-grad job search around 6-to-8 months before you. We could offer “sea stories” about our experiences, trials and tribulations, and how tough it was during the recessionary times of the mid-70s, but that would probably go over like a turd in the punch bowl. Recent grads, you played by the rules, studied the works of people long gone, put up with inane administrative demands such as fines for holes in the dorm wall from 20 years ago, etc, adnauseum. Ole Harp said it best…”things will work out…”. The only nugget I would offer is “keep your radar in full search”. Opportunities can be (and often are) fleeting…now you see it, now you don’t. STAY STRONG!

David S

November 20th, 2009
7:36 pm

Federally guaranteed student loans make money too available. Colleges know this and thus their costs continue to rise in the face of what should be downward market pressure. If they had to compete for real dollars, not borrowed dollars, the costs of every college would be dropping. Dont’ believe me – just look at UCLA. A marginal school with the socialist streak a mile wide. In this depression, they raised student costs 38%! Meanwhile Sears is offering a Sony 50″ plasma TV (1080P) for only $895.

Face it folks, the market works if the government doesn’t intervene and print up gobs of worthless dollars that raise the price of everything and make credit too easily available.

With tighter money, kids would be making intelligent choices instead of believing that everyone needs to go to college.

As well, if the government were out of the business of destroying business, maybe more kids would see a future working for themselves and owning their own businesses rather than going to school just to learn how to be somebody elses slave.


November 20th, 2009
8:44 pm

Wriite an article about the SEIU 1000 members beating up Ken Hamidi for trying to exercising his right for free speech at their public meeting. Write about the hyocrisy of the fact that this is barely been a news story. Write about how Obama has as he says “worked with this organization all of his life” but they are keeping this very quiet. Write about the obvious fact that if a black man would have gone into a public meeting and had been beaten up by 4 white men it would be national news and their would be a public outcry on every news channel in this country. Thankyou


November 20th, 2009
9:44 pm

She should vote for Obama again.

free market educator

November 21st, 2009
2:33 am

The public school brainwash centers deserve most of the credit. After all, they’ve educated most of our population. The Constitution and free market principles are not taught. Basic economics are ignored. The schools themselves are government sponsored monopolies. Emphasis is on creating government dependent citizens. The Wall Street Banksters are held up as examples of the “free market”. Keynes is worshipped. God certainly is not. America’s children are reaping what their parents have sown. I pity them. Their anger is justified. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. We have followed His principles, and we are as a tree planted by the rivers of water. Young people, turn to the Living God! There is hope in Christ. Read Psalms 1 and 2. These promises are faithful and true.

Conservative Hypocracy

November 21st, 2009
11:18 am

Scary and Tom:
Please find a “tea bagger” rally or something to go to! Good grief! WE (yes, WE, the majority of sensible Americans) are tired of you IDIOTS.

Tom: Newsflash, genius, this current economy was caused by YEARS of the anti-government, no-regulation practices of the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush regimes! And you expect President Obama to fix things in a year? Give me a break, and please get out of MY COUNTRY!

Scary: How do you know the union workers were Black? I’m sure it’s just a racist assumption by you. Here’s an idea … I’m sure FOX NEWS can be seen in some other country where the presence of African Americans is minimal. Why not move there? I repeat, get out of MY country!

Thank you. Have a nice weekend.


November 21st, 2009
12:29 pm

Hey, Free Market, any word on those camping trips labeled education?


November 21st, 2009
6:16 pm

Free Market– Don’t know what schools you’re talking about. I went to public schools for all my k-12 education….and we learned about the Constitution and about free market principles…and all of those things you claim are being left out.

I want schools to offer a balanced education….not a “liberal” education or a “conservative” education. I want kids to learn about all forms of government, all forms of science, all forms of economics, and all forms of religion. My kids will know our family’s values regardless of what the school teaches. I want my children to be as well read and broadly educated as possible.


November 21st, 2009
6:44 pm

There is an underlying, barely disguised sense of bitterness and anger apparent in these blogs toward the present generation of young people. It is so sad. Every generation has its trials and tribulations and while they may not be the same as the prior generations, they are equally troubling.And we troubled our parents equally…tey just didn’t see it on so many different types of media 24/7. Instead of ranting about how easy things are now, or how not everyone should get to go to college…(are YOU qualified to play God and deny someone funds to go to college? Are YOU able to seein to the future and know that a poor person won’t develop a cure for cancer?). Help support the future generations with the wisdom from your mistakes and successes. Encourage them to be resourceful and hopeful. Because these are the people who will guide your grandchildren and greatgrandchildren into the future. Make your contribution to this generation heroic.

free market educator

November 22nd, 2009
12:14 am

What are your family values?

Ole Guy

November 24th, 2009
10:44 am

HERE HERE, Philo, well-said! However, it’s all about timing…when the engine starts a-sputterin, ya gotta release the starter. And if the kid can’t keep the wings level, ya gotta take (sometimes unpopular) alternate action.

Fill in the blanks before emiting platitudes of wisdom and hope before they crash and burn.


November 24th, 2009
4:22 pm

Ole Guy- I don’t consider the wisdom imparted to me from my father, or the “wisdom” I have tried to impart to my kids to be platitudes. What THEY call it may be some other terrm, though…LOL…at least until they get old enough, like me, to appreciate it.
Also, If the kid is constantly hit with turbulence and bird flocks (not to mention, all the droppings), and never given the benefit of the old pilot’s experience, he’s NEVER going to keep his wings level….guaranteed to crash!

Ole Guy

November 24th, 2009
11:39 pm