The Impossible job market for students

By Shannon A Garrido

For young people everywhere, looking for employment after graduation has become much more difficult. High competition, little work experience, a pandemic, and the recession it caused, have made it increasingly difficult for recent graduates or even current students to navigate the job market. However, what’s more concerning is the new phenomenon brought forward to current students, where they feel forced to have job experience before graduation in order to fill qualifications that their degree no longer checks out. 

If you’re a recent graduate, your new degree should serve as evidence that you’ve acquired the skills necessary for an entry-level job in your chosen field. However, 74 percent of employers said experience in the workplace is significant or critical when hiring young people. Moreover, if you are a college student you are more than likely to be told to fit internships into your academic schedule, which wouldn’t be counterproductive if these companies weren’t looking for interns that come with at least a year of work experience

Many internships in journalism require students have newsroom experience — except in their eyes, working at your student paper isn’t enough. You have to have managed to land an internship or entry-level position while toiling away as a full-time student and likely balancing a position at your student paper. 

The dichotomy is almost funny, you need work experience to get a job, but you need a job to get work experience.

This hiring pattern has real effects on current students and graduates. The unemployment rate for young college graduates exceeds that of the general population, and about 41 percent of recent college graduates are underemployed. This means that college graduates are working in jobs that don’t require a college degree, according to new data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

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It’s almost absurd when you consider that college students often pay more than $100,000 for four years of education that are supposed to help them land a job in a job market that will only find them worthy if they start giving out their labor for free. 

Not to mention that in an economic climate where young people in America were already facing higher levels of unemployment, COVID-19 only added to that stress. Unemployment rates of young workers between the ages of 16-24 rose from 8.4 percent to 24.4 percent from spring 2019 to spring 2020. Meanwhile, unemployment for their counterparts ages 25 and older rose from 2.8 percent to 11.3 percent.

Luke Pardue, an economist at payroll and benefits provider Gusto, told Insider, “hiring rates typically for this cohort of workers typically spike in May and June as new graduates accept jobs after graduation, but in 2021 we have seen employment growth remains low through these past two months.”

During times like these, it seems almost cruel to expect college students applying for mostly unpaid internships to also have the required work experience. These internships are made to be that bridge in which students gain experience before graduation. If we make them unreachable for students without these experiences, they are left in a state of limbo. 

Personally, I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. One part of me wants to sacrifice my time in classes to find an entry-level job that will give me some form of steady income. The other part of me wants to focus on my career by getting an internship that will also take up most of my time and not pay me, but possibly help me in future career opportunities. However, this is not an isolated feeling, seeing that the job market makes it seem impossible to get ahead.

There is also an argument to be made that unpaid internships are immoral and should not exist since companies are essentially exploiting students for their skills and labor. Moreover, according to the Atlantic, they also single out lower-income people who simply can’t afford to take unpaid internships and miss out on these career stepping stones.

However, it doesn’t make sense to turn away students and recent graduates who are more than likely paying millions of dollars to learn the skills necessary from entry-level jobs. Jobs that are made to give them the experience necessary to move up the financial ladder. It should not be impossible to find a job with an education on your resume.