Would you like that pizza medium or large?
This question is probably all too familiar for recent college graduates. Young people all across America are coming to the realization that the career path they thought they were on may end up looking a little different after entering the workforce.
A college education has always been an investment. Young people, typically between 18 and 23 years old, enroll in a college with hopes of obtaining a degree enabling them to pursue a career in their field of their choice. Unfortunately, within the last few years, this investment works much better in theory than it does in practice.
Today, hundreds of thousands of high school students are entering college with hopes and aspirations of a degree guaranteeing them some form of viable employment, only to find that when they enter the job market, the jobs they desire simply do not exist. As well-paying jobs for college graduates dry up, students who have invested four (or more) years of their lives and tens of thousands of dollars for better career prospects are finding little in return. The idea of landing that “dream job” right out of college have, well, basically disappeared.
It used to be going to college would pretty much guarantee an entry-level position. To the dismay of many, today there seems to be an almost equal chance of you working at a retail store or taking a position outside of your desired work field. We live in a job market where college graduates face fierce competition from other unemployed or underemployed people. For instance, nowadays it is far more likely a 23-year-old will be applying for the same job as a 43-year-old. Making matters worse, the ability to convince potential employers to go with an inexperienced graduate is no small feat.
In order to maintain in this super-competitive world, young people have to find ways to separate themselves from applicants with more experience and more polished resumes. This is where advanced education becomes an area that gives young people a trump card. Everything from a master’s degree to a doctorate to a JD enables students to achieve employment in a field they desire.
The point is, in a job market plagued by high unemployment, one sure fire way to catch the eye of potential employers is pursuing higher levels of education. The problem with this scenario, however, is cost. Many students graduate from college with an already mountainous pile of debt, and the possibility of increasing that debt may not be the most appealing decision.
Another option for those concerned about raking up large amounts of loan debt is enrolling in a trade school. This is an excellent choice for those more inclined toward a career in welding, plumbing, electrical engineering, etc. Taking advantage of a trade school may be the more economical and effective way to find work in a specific field. The benefit of a trade school education is you gain a specific skill set and gain more job opportunities. Someone who has been educated in fixing automobiles may not have the ability to transition their skills to many forms of employment, but what they do have is a set of very unique skills that can carry them a long way.
A degree in English or philosophy may have seemed like a good idea freshman year, but outside of teaching, transitioning that into a career is harder than ever before. Again, one of the only ways to succeed in today’s job market is to separate yourself from the pack. One of the easiest, and unfortunately costly, ways to do this, is by specifying and furthering your education in as many ways as possible.
For this generation of graduates to succeed, they must invest in themselves in ways previous generations could not possibly imagine. Sixty years ago it used to be a surprise when one person from a family went to college. Perhaps in the future the new norm will be multiple people, from the same family, pursuing higher education.
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