Job Seeking for a College Graduate in 1980 versus Today ~
Triggered by Millennial Angst on the Diane Rehm Show.
my commute I often have the radio tuned to WAMU / NPR. Monday morning the Diane
Rehm Show had assembled a panel of Millennials to discuss their views on life,
which as usual resulted in complaints about their student loan debts and
inability to find a good job. The panelists asserted the US Economy was at its
worst for recent grads since the Great Depression. Apparently, many Millennials
missed classes on 20th
Century History and Economics.
economy has always been cyclical with the job outlook for recent college
graduates ebbing and flowing and ever changing. When I was graduated from my
small Midwestern university in 1980, the world was in crisis, Jimmy Carter was
president and had put a freeze on federal hiring, the hostages were still held
by student radicals in Iran, there was a recession, an oil shortage, and it was
a white man’s world. But returning to the parental nest was not an option for
me. My siblings and I were raised to be independent and make it or not on our
was fortunate in that I did not graduate with the burden of huge student loans.
one thing, lending institutions were more cautious and would not have loaned
that much money to a student borrower without any collateral. A parent had to
co-sign. But there was never any question I would attend college for at least
one year. Unlike many students today who stretch what should be a 4 year degree
into 5 or more, I made the conscious decision to take extra credits (at one
point 20 credits per quarter), worked at a radio station and a pizza parlor,
and graduated in 3 years with the ever-so-useful liberal arts degree in French.
But I believed and still do today that a liberal arts background prepares one
to be a well- rounded person who can exhibit the skills necessary to compete in
any job environment.
the job outlook quite challenging and the understanding that I needed
employment, I decided to apply for any job that would consider a female liberal
arts graduate a viable candidate. When I applied for the job as a claims
adjuster for the now defunct Commercial Union Assurance Companies, I did not
even know what the job entailed. I’d never heard the term before. Before I was
offered the job, I was required to take series of personality tests, which were
purported to gauge whether I was suited to the particular job. Either I passed
the tests or the company was under significant pressure to diversify its work
force. I was offered the job for $12,500 per year and a company car – a 1980
green Ford Fairmont with a cream landau top.
I was the first woman field adjuster hired in
the Indianapolis office.
When I accepted
the job, I still didn’t know precisely what it was. But, it was a job. My foot
was in the door.
And I made it a career.
the lesson for young people entering the job market today is this~be open to
any opportunity. You won’t have to earn a fortune to pay loans if you attend a
state university in the state in which you live to keep tuition costs down. One
shouldn’t expect to start at the top, or even the middle, or even make a decent
income at first.
But the best way to get
a better job is to have work experience. And it is easier to find a job when
you have a job. So take a job, try it, and if you don’t like it, keep looking.
And finding a work/life balance is not always possible at first. But you can
get there after earning it through hard work.