The New Grad’s Economy: Preparing for Economic Challenges Ahead

Graduates in 2012 will be entering an economy with more debt and less job opportunities than they would have 20 or even 10 years ago.  The last recession of this proportion was actually in 1984, the year I graduated from college.

But the surprise isn’t only on the new graduates. Employers are gaining new hires who have spent some of their most formidable years in a bad economy and who have responded with either apathy or a zeal to overcome obstacles in the professional world. For both kinds of young adults, and those in between, they will be up against some challenges that, although sometimes grim, are the reality of our current economy. Instead of  being the apathetic new hire or job seeker, I encourage you to take on the following challenges with the mindset that you will keep moving forward until you can overcome.

Challenge: There aren’t enough jobs to employ teens and new grads.

There are 75 million people ages 15 to 24 who are currently looking for work around the world. You are not alone in your struggle, and that may require you to be more creative and open when looking for a job. Some new graduates are moving to Asian nations in an effort to get their career started, according to the article “‘Made’ in China: The Millenials Look East for Jobs.”1 As population growth in China slows and the number of elderly people increases, more European and American citizens are moving East and taking advantage of the softening migration rules.

Many new graduates are also choosing to create jobs of their own2. With the boom in startups and a national call for more innovation, new graduates with an entrepreneurial spirit are encouraged to go back to small business models and use their digital expertise to find their place in the new economy.

Challenge: Many teens and young adults don’t have the skills to land and keep a job. 

More than half of American teens are unemployed, which brings many more long-term concerns than it does for concerns over teen wallets. The scarcity of teen jobs implies that a large portion of teens will go through their high school and college years without having any real-world experience that is critical for learning how to navigate the world of work after college. Young adults will have to have experiential learning opportunities to learn these skills, and many are forced to push this basic learning until after college.

In her article “Too Busy for a Summer Job? Why America’s Youth Lacks Basic Work Skills,” Erika Christakis points out a paradox that today’s young adults are living: “Despite unprecedented technological and cultural sophistication, this generation’s 20-year-olds lack some of the ‘soft’ skills that are necessary to move up the professional ladder: perseverance, humility, flexibility and commitment.”3 Be willing to take on experiences that could propose a learning opportunity, even if they aren’t ideal. Any job is better than no job when it comes developing transferable skills you need to land a more ideal and better paying job in the future.

Challenge: Many new grads enter the working world are buried in debt. 

Recently, the U.S. student-loan debt reached $1 trillion, surpassing credit card debt.4 Many students went into their college careers willingly taking on decades worth of debt, believing there would be a job waiting for them after graduation. For many, the jobs aren’t there and for many there are jobs, but not ones that pay a high enough salary to put a dent in their monthly loan payments.

As a result of high student loan debt, a report by Pew Research Center suggests more young adults are postponing marriage, having children, and buying assets, like cars and homes.5 Is it going to take longer to get to your career goals than you had planned freshman year? Reassess your career path and take it one step at a time.

Employment opportunities are scarce, but available; learning opportunities are abundant, but need to be taken advantage of; and debt cripples many dreams of buying homes, starting families, or pursuing higher education, but there is still hope. There may be challenges ahead, but with preparation, they can be less of a surprise.

To frame this situation in context, the brave men and women who survived World War II came back to the United States with pennies to their name.  They built much of our modern economy by starting in the mailroom, cleaning toilets, and working at more than one job.  What these industrious people learned is, in the words of James Allen:  The situation doesn’t make the man, it reveals him to himself.  In other words, difficult times show us who we are.  No matter who you are, no matter what your situation, this is your opportunity to shine. Adelante!



1“‘Made’ in China: The Millenials Look East for Jobs,” by Courtney Subramanian. 30 April 2012. Time. Accessed on 1 May 2012.

2“Why New Graduates Should Consider Entrepreneurship,” by Alexis Grant. 12 May 2012. US News.

3“Too Busy for a Summer Job? Why America’s Youth Lacks Basic Work Skills,” by Erika Christakis. 1 May 2012. Time. Accessed on 1 May 2012.

4“Student-Loan Debt Reaches Record $1 Trillion, Report Says,” 22 March 2012. Bloomberg. Accessed on 1 May 2012.

5“US Jobs Gap Between Young and Old Is Widest Ever,” by Hope Yen 9 February 2012. The Oakland Press. Accessed on 1 May 2012.

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