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Job Hunting in College: Expectations Vs. Reality

Huffington Post

"I really enjoyed my time at Oberlin and I felt like I was learning, but I wasn't progressing towards a job at the end of graduation," said Ned Lindau, a 2011 graduate from Oberlin College in Ohio. He noted that his liberal arts education focused on students exploring subjects that they were interested in learning, not the practicality of a job after college.

That corresponds to the continued discussion about how well four-year colleges are preparing their graduates for the workforce. Though students might leave with an ability to think critically, solve a calculus problem set, or write a paper that argues their point of view, college is not a place where one becomes accustomed to sitting at a desk for eight hours, learns how to navigate office politics, or gains insight into effective meeting management and strategic planning, unless students are in a specialized program that focuses on those skills. [...]

The growing pains aren't new, but coupled with the backdrop of the recession, they will be felt more acutely. There are long-term consequences of the current economic conditions, said Heidi Shierholz, an analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, in a phone interview. "These kids, research suggests, will make less money and that lasts for one to two decades," she said. "If you have one to two decades of low earnings -- that could be a down payment on a house -- you're never going to get that back." Add to that: stiff competition for jobs. Catherine Ruetschlin, a policy analyst at Demos, noted in an email: "As of the latest count we're looking at 3.8 unemployed workers for every job opening in the economy. That tally suggests that competition is still stiff for young people just entering the market." Ruetschlin said that the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows an average of 182,000 jobs added each month in 2013, the same amount as in 2012, but noted, "One of the implications of that growth will be people who previously left the labor market re-entering and looking for jobs. Since we're still well-below the labor force participation rates from before the recession - both for young people and the population as a whole - we're probably going to see the ratio of labor supply to labor demand worsen before it gets better." That exacerbates young workers' ability to determine what they want out of a career and can add to the sense of frustration and at times failure that job hunters might feel.