The Perils of Being a Recently Minted College Graduate

(By Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)
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Sunday, June 7, 2009

After four years at George Washington University, I expected that my life would magically come together. I was aware that we college graduates often struggle to figure out what to do, but now we're struggling just to find employment.

Among my friends, the few who have jobs next year have joined Teach for America, which is ironic because people mock humanities degrees as only being useful for teaching. The starting salary from Teach for America is higher than anyone I know with a full-time job right now. As a philosophy major, I thought that the critical thinking and analytical skills I acquired would be more desirable to prospective employers. I worked at GWU's writing center for four years, so I thought that would give me edge on other candidates. But not so far. Indeed, there are many uncertainties as I reflect on my college education.

I have heard that there are "stimulus jobs," and I have applied for probably a dozen jobs with the federal government alone. I have read that Washington is the best place for job-seeking college graduates right now. (I remind my parents of this when they ask me to move back home.) I feel as if I am being enterprising in my search, using Craigslist, Indeed, CareerBuilder and The Post.

The few jobs that I qualify for all seem to have the same title: administrative assistant. As I read the listings, I never imagined that I would spend $200,000 on an education in hopes of making $25,000 a year when I graduated. I went to college with dreams of working on government policy, writing for a newspaper or serving on a bioethics committee. Who knew that the economy would go into crisis while I was in college? After sending what seems like my millionth résumé and cover letter, I am realizing that I might need to go back to school sooner than I expected.

GWU's online jobs site used to be a great place to look for paid positions, but with the economic situation, jobs have been scarce. (The economy was mentioned in every graduation speech -- as if we needed to be reminded how hard it would be to find a job.) Another option is an unpaid internship, which is rather unrealistic for anyone without a trust fund. Unpaid internships do offer great experience -- I worked for the Special Olympics -- but unfortunately they do not always lead to a paying job.

After six interviews with no responses, and my internship coming to an end, I feel uncertain about the future. I have been checking my e-mail constantly, hoping to hear about a potential interview or, better yet, a job offer. I have always believed that things will work out, so I am doing my best to embrace this experience. I thought that once college ended, all of my dreams would come true. Well, I'm not giving up yet because, as I learned in a book given to me at my high school graduation, "The Impossible Will Take a Little While." I guess it will just take a little longer than I expected.

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