Despite some research claiming the job market is in an upswing, the sad truth is that many college graduates are still unable to find full-time work. According to the New York Times, the unemployment rate for 20-24 year olds stood at 13.2 percent in April. With the economy still in recession and the job sphere unable to create opportunities where there aren’t any, many graduates are forced to join a new rank: the college-educated interns.
Entry-level jobs are a thing of the past, something we’ll mystify our children with stories of, like Tamagotchis or life before dubstep. With the uncertainty of gaining full-time employment, college graduates turn to internships hoping it will be the crutch their resumes and future jobs can lean on.
University of Colorado alum Alex Miller graduated with his Bachelor’s in geology and now works as an intern at Range Resources, an oil and gas company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “This internship is important because it gets my foot in the door,” Miller said. “The company I’m interning with will not hire a geologist without a Master’s degree so this is the experience to help me get into graduate school and then a job once I graduate.”
There used to be a time when going to college ensured a job upon graduation, but now there seems to be several steps between a diploma and a career. No longer is an undergraduate degree enough.
Companies want experience, and with few people getting hired out of the college gates, internships are a graduate’s best bet. For Miller, the idea of full-time work never crossed his mind. “I didn’t even really look into a full-time job because I knew I wouldn’t get a very good one that I would like or be able to move up in without experience,” Miller said.
Although Miller’s internship is paid, it doesn’t offer the stability or benefits of a full-time job. Working as an intern gets him a leg up later, but for now, it’s just a piece of the job market puzzle.
For others of us (namely me) that aren’t in a lucrative industry like oil and natural gas, my puzzle appears to be missing a few pieces. Creative types aren’t high in demand. Legendary columnists are getting laid off. Apparently sarcasm doesn’t translate well in cover letters to The New Yorker or Washington Post.
The first job I interviewed for after graduation, I got an offer within a week. I turned it down. I thought another job would come around with more money or a better location. I've spent seven months endlessly applying for that job. And every other job. None have come around.
More than half of my applications are ignored. The few that aren't are often replied with a disheartening email telling me I’m not qualified enough. Even fewer ask me for an interview and—surprise, surprise—find someone more capable or better connected, but I'm sure not as witty or painstakingly desperate. One told me I had too much experience and removed me from the applicant pool. Yeah, that one stung.
As it stands today, I have applied for over 400 jobs since December. I can't afford graduate school. My student loan payments are scheduled to begin in two weeks and I have $212 to my name. My resume is stacked with experience, yet it doesn't seem to be enough. I'm starting to think that this whole "experience" bit is just a Darwinian ruse to weed out the smart-mouthed beatniks from the job market, leaving the Wall Streeters and oil tycoons to battle for interstellar domination and rewrite history (quite lamely and grammatically incorrect) without us.
If I haven't sufficiently depressed you enough, just know that I have hope. Hope that one day I'll be some company's Goldilocks with not too much experience and not too little, but just the right amount.
It will happen… right?