Michele St-Amant, who is our RA in Washington D.C, shares her experience about why recent college graduates should focus more on finding meaningful work experience through an internship, than being upset about the state of the economy.
College graduation should be a time not only for celebration and reflection of your accomplishments, but also of excitement as you look forward to your future in the so-called “real world.” At least, it should be.
My generation faces a daunting “real world” reality. According to the Economic Policy Institute, in 2014 the unemployment rate for new college grads was 8.5%, compared to 5.5% in 2007. Compare this number to the national average in May of 2014 (around the time that graduations occur) at 6.1%, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The underemployment rate for recent college grads is 16.8%, almost double that of the rate in 2007 at 9.6%. Compare this to 6%, which is the national underemployment rate in 2014 according to the Pew Research Center. From this staggering data, it is clear that a particular age group is being affected by the slow-growing labor market more than others: new college grads. It’s no wonder that so many new graduates don’t find their graduation as a time for celebration, but rather as a time of anxiety and uncertainty about the future.
Well, truthfully there’s not that much we can do about the state of the job market or the economy. No one person can fix the mess our economy has been in since 2008. What we can do though, is maintain our positivity that a bright future is just on the horizon. The kind of future we envisioned while consuming those 4 cups of coffee to stay up for those all-nighters in college. A professor I knew at Hofstra once said to our class, “we can be bitter, or we can be better.” When Dr. Hussein Rashid said this he was actually referring to Islamophobia and racism, but I think it is a statement that can be applied to virtually any situation, including this one.
My generation MUST be better. For the sake of progress and advancing the human race, we must be better. I’m sure we have all heard this at least once in our lives, that “we are the future leaders of the world,” and we probably scoff at the remark or simply ignore it. Don’t fight it. We are, in fact, the future leaders of the world and our employment status at the moment does not dictate our future success, because we can choose to be better, not bitter.
So then, realistically, what CAN the future “leaders of the world” do in the face of such a bleak job market? Well, if you’re one of the many of us who hasn’t landed a job yet after graduation, do not fear - you have options! One of these options is to get an internship after graduation.
While, unfortunately, the majority of internships remain unpaid, there is value to this kind of work experience that can benefit you when you begin your job search. The common excuse I hear from people who don’t want to work an unpaid internship after graduation is this: “I have a degree now, so I should not be working for free.” In a perfect world, this would be true. And as a recent college graduate myself, I whole-heartedly agree with this statement. However, the world is not perfect and we must do the best with what we are given: be better, not bitter.
An unpaid internship can offer you a couple benefits in regards to your future employment. The first and most obvious thing it can offer you is more experience; there is nothing more valuable than experience. You never know, perhaps the experience you gain in an unpaid internship was the experience you lacked on your resume to land that dream job you’re in search of.
The second thing a post-grad internship can offer is the possibility of employment with that company/organization in the near future. If you make it your goal to be the best, most attentive and most astute intern your employer has ever seen, he/she may consider hiring you after you’ve proven your worth.
The third thing a post-grad internship can offer is connections. In such an interconnected world where everybody knows everybody, connections are EVERYTHING. Let’s say your post-grad internship is a great experience, but definitely not something you can see yourself doing long-term. The way to make the best use of your internship is to utilize the tools provided by a good relationship with your employer/co-workers. Perhaps they know someone in the field you are truly interested in and can write you a stunning letter of recommendation; or perhaps they can personally recommend you to your dream employer and you can skip the anonymous application process. The possibilities are endless when you have a good relationship with your employer and coworkers.
The fact remains that recent college graduates are suffering exponentially more in the job market than other age groups. While it may seem as though there is not that much we can do to change this, other than wait for the economy to pick back up, what we can do is not get bitter about it. Bitterness leads to giving up, and we cannot give up. The future will get brighter as long as we remain better than our situation.