From Ivy League to Unemployed: How College Grads Should Approach the Job Hunt

I just graduated from Yale and I’m unemployed.  Four years ago I entered college with 1300 other handpicked Ivy League newbies who were teeming with ambition and naïveté.  We were equipped with eager minds, open ears, and a lifetime supply of Bed Bath and Beyond dorm products—and our futures looked so bright we nearly had early onset cataracts.  Fast forward four years later and we found ourselves sitting at commencement—the bulk of us were unemployed, and our futures suddenly looked duller than a butter knife.

A common misconception is that Ivy Leaguers are instantly absorbed into vacancies in the job market because of our educational pedigree.  Others often tell me that “at least you’re the best of a bad bunch.”  This “bunch” is approximately 1.5 million students who graduated in 2009. According to a Collegiate Employment Research Institute survey, the unemployed 2009 graduate also faces the competition of 1.85 million additional unemployed job seekers with bachelor’s degrees or higher. It can be difficult to sell yourself when there are literally dozens of other trained candidates competing against you for the position—individuals with, perhaps, more experience or degrees under their belt.  Sure, the Liberal Arts education sparkles with prestige and promise.  But in this tough market, while you may boast extensive knowledge of the painting styles of 13th century Sienese religious artists, lacking command of practical marketable skills can slow you down a bit in the job hunt.  It’s sometimes a struggle to pitch the following successfully: “I couldn’t take business classes because my school didn’t have them, but I can learn good, promise!!”

So the Ivy League unemployed are aware of the current crunch, and believe me it is palpable and consuming.   It’s true the benefits of a college education are unparalleled—a college education gives me the benefit of long term security, but the current recession yields days when I feel like I’m riding shotgun on a one-way train to a career as the backstage popcorn girl in 2029’s Gremlins on Ice.  I am clearly not alone in this, but there are several things that a recent college grad should keep in mind to help navigate this new job market:

1) Your inexperience can be attractive to employers:
The CERI survey says that “markets generally favor young adults in recessions, and 29 percent of the employers in its current survey indicate that they have shifted their hiring in favor of new college graduates over experienced workers.”
Seems odd at first—wouldn’t employers prefer candidates with more prestige in degrees/experience/employment history?  Nope—your entry level salary of $30,000 is far more appealing to the company than the six figure earnings that higher degrees might demand.

2) Don’t fret about not being able to go to your alma mater’s career fair this year: focus on web postings in your job hunt.
Employers have had to cut costs on all fronts, and this includes traveling expenses to college career fairs.  Joining a social job posting web site like keeps you up to date with the most current job listings for the 20-something demographic.

3) Email your professors!
When looking for the best job candidates, 58 percent of employers are now relying on referrals from faculty members or advisors who can recommend their favorite students for potential jobs.  CERI reports that “Some employers are demanding direct access to faculty in an effort to identify the best candidates.”
A friend of mine, after his 35th job rejection, realized that his childhood dream was to do fieldwork around the world for National Geographic.  He went to his geology professor, explained his situation, and after a couple of phone calls he was asked to accompany an arctic expedition on the Beaufort Sea as a dispatch writer.  Keep contact with your favorite professors from school—just writing a short email explaining that you are in the trenches of the job hunt and eager to work can open the channel for exciting opportunities.  Who knows—your archeology professor from first semester junior year could be looking for someone to help catalog Incan artifacts on an all expenses paid mission to Peru, and you just might be the perfect person for the job.  Such experiences can help boost a resume, or even balloon into an eventual career.

4) During your job hunt, pursue outside interests that might appeal to what employers are currently looking for.
Keep in mind that currently “There is built-up demand for certain majors, particularly in the agricultural and food sciences, engineering and IT.”  Only about 6 percent of employers are planning on seeking social science or humanities graduates during this hiring season—a bleak forecast for most job seekers.  Try volunteering or interning with a company that is in tune with the current interests of employers, or better yet—apply the skill set you learned from your major to these areas.  An art major with a gardening hobby could start a cleverly-designed blog about household sustainability—the possibilities for staying engaged with what employers are looking for while job hunting are endless.

Keep yourself open to possibilities, and continue making connections and moving forward in order to maximize your prospects!



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9 responses to “From Ivy League to Unemployed: How College Grads Should Approach the Job Hunt

  1. auniqueperspective

    All great ideas and I commend you for spending so much time addressing these issues for college grads. This reflects the situation many are in, however my own experience was a little diffrent. I have a child and my wife is out of work too. The pressure to land a job that pays was huge. In my situation I am in no shape to spend my days volunteering or interning for free. I think that if you are graduating and have no responsibility such as kids or to an unemployed spouse than you are in GREAT shape. You can intern and volunteer while living with your folks honing your skills and networking for a great job a year from now. If you are stuck like me find some time I am volunteering for a fantastic program to propel my career but only about 2 hours a week. It better than nothing and it shows effort and keeps me plugged in. Good luck

  2. This is an impressive entry. Thank you very much for the outstanding post provided! I was looking for this entry for a long time, but I wasnt able to find a trusted source.

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  6. Awesome post, I’m a big fan of this blog, keep up the good work, and I’ll be a regular visitor for a long time.

  7. Excellent blog. Another great way for college graduates to gain experience while exploring the world is to volunteer abroad. The key is to find a program that is affordable and to fundraise to cover the costs of serving in a developing country.

  8. Недорогие пассажирские перевозки микроавтобусами.

  9. Pingback: More Tales of Unemployment From the Hallowed Ivies « The Ivy Lie

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