Oh My God We Are All Unemployed: How Twentysomethings Live Now

There have been maybe eight million articles written on The Recession and how it has been affecting Those Young People and most especially how None Of Us Have A  Job. This article from GOOD Magazine on being “Young, Educated and Unemployed” is not wildly different, except that 1) it is more recent than the other articles, indicating that this is still happening, 2) it actually sounds like the situation might be even worse than I thought, and 3) it comes when I have recently gotten a raise at my day job, which brings me up to the wage their profiled sad-sack twentysomething is earning. (@good)

The people profiled in this article are certainly indicative of a specific kind of economic failure – they went to expensive colleges and have Master’s degrees and six figures of debt, they really like books and being smart. Specifically, “curating museum exhibits, making comic books, [and] being a curious person.” Also they all have to work low-wage jobs – Luke Stacks, the “protagonist” of the article, works at a home-electronics chain. Some of them don’t work low-wage jobs because they’ve decided on principle that they won’t take any job they could also have qualified for before six years of expensive education – this seems insane to me or like they possibly live in an alternate universe where feeling good about yourself is more important than paying your bills, but that’s neither here nor there.


The point is simple: this sucks. There is no other real point. I would mention that it doesn’t suck quite as much as it does for those people who have ALWAYS been unemployed or underemployed – for instance, black men as a demographic, or those people who can’t afford (or convince themselves that they can afford) hundreds of thousands of dollars of education. But people who have always had it tough continuing to have it tough doesn’t make as good a story as the newly unfortunate. And you know what, it does really suck. It actually sucks even worse than I thought! Jesus Christ!

Apparently – and this is genuinely terrifying – “the economic effects aren’t temporary.”

Lisa Kahn, an economist at Yale’s School of Management, tracked the wages of white men who graduated from college before, during, and after the 1980s recession. Over a 20-year period, those who graduated in the peak of the recession earned $100,000 less than those who finished college before or after the economic downturn… the longer one spends in a non-degree job, the less likely one is to ever join the college-educated labor force.

$100,000 is so much money! It’s even more money I don’t have than the amount of money I don’t have/owe to other institutions right now, and that’s saying a lot! The implied question – in both this article and our lives – is “Was it worth it?” The papers on the signification of music in Toni Morrison’s work, the independent studies on German film, the PhD program in Victorian literature? I don’t know. The people in this article are starting to feel like maybe not, and there are days I feel that way too. On the other hand, those days are also the ones where I write internet web log articles for an online magazine – maybe you’ve heard of it, autostraddle dot com – and because of my expensive education they don’t need to be copyedited much which is good or even necessary because we can’t pay a copywriter. Or anyone else to write articles, really. So I don’t know. There’s no real takeaway here. Maybe People Like Me aren’t being somehow left out in the cold; maybe this is how things are now, maybe the heat has just stopped working and we’re all in it together. Maybe I need to justify my student loans. Or this really is just how we live now! Long live the future.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. I spend 5 years getting a pretty much useless degree (English Literature) and now I’m spending tens of thousands of dollars to get a masters degree which I hope will make me slightly more employable. When I think about how much debt I am accumulating it makes me want to throw up. But I’m too far into it now to stop.
    Pass me the Franzia Lynne

    • See, I got a similarly useless degree (Creative Writing) but using some creative self-promotion was able to talk myself into a technical writing job. Then again, I was a) ridiculously lucky to find someone willing to give me a chance and b) living in a country that’s not quite as poorly off as the States right now.

        • You’ve just gotta use those creative skills to make yourself look more qualified! ;) (Not by lying, of course, but by taking the experience you have and showing how it is, in fact, relevant.)

      • Merlot, whiskey, my personal favorite…a bottle of 151.

        I’m still a junior, majoring in both Music Technology and Music Theory. I’m praying that I’ll be a college professor or working for some technology company. We’ll see what happens.

        So far, i’m still under 40,000 in loans and this is with over 10,000 a year in scholarships and grants.

  2. Tell me about it girl. Loads of people here I know are emigrating, mainly to the UK and Oz, which isnt always a great option becuase those countries have job problems too. This country is totally fucked though, we went from being one of the richest countries in Europe to being one of the poorest and no one really knows how to fix things. People are getting really pissed off with the Government and civil unrest is getting worse, just yesterday there was a mini riot against the introduction of college fees, I do think that things may explode soon, ala Greece. I myself will more than likely have to emigrate to find a job, probably to Australia, we’ll see. It’s like history repeating itself to an extent.

    • Are you in Ireland? (the mini student riot gave it away). The UK isn’t faring much better …. it baffles me why people are still coming here when millions of jobs will go over the next year or so. The worst hit so far are students who will have to pay huge tuition fees from 2012.

      Germany and the Netherlands seem a good bet within Europe now, or Canada and Australia.

    • Yeah I don’t think Australia’s unemployment situation is as severe as the USA’s. I feel like Australian employers are more willing to take a chance on job hunters who either don’t have a degree, or don’t have the correct degree for the job. I have a advanced diploma in entertainment management that isn’t even worth the paper it’s printed on, and yet I’ve never had a problem finding good work in Sydney.

      So everyone should probably move to Australia.

      • Unless you’re an immigrant. In that case, good freaking luck. (I had to spend a year as a casual childcare assistant because no one else was willing to take me on. And it’s not just me – a former colleague of mine from Northern Ireland went through almost exactly the same experience I did, and she has a masters in broadcast journalism!)

        • Also I should note that this was almost 6 years ago. It would probably be worse now, since jobs are scarcer.

        • Dude, I’m on a bridging visa *NOW*. NO ONE will hire me. Or the ones that would have no money. (Hello, arts world.) It’s all “wtf is a bridging visa?” and “but seriously, what is your visa?” etc etc even though I’m legally able to work anywhere. Doesn’t help that I have an ethnic name. Grr.

          My parents tell me off for being an artist/artsworker type because they think “there’s no money”. But honestly it’s the only thing paying me!

          (If any Brisbane-based employers want to hire me…HI :D)

      • @ Jen, yes I am indeed from Ireland, and things are just terrible here. I just think things really could explode here soon, if this is anything to go by-> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPnoAY1wXfI&feature=player_embedded I mean jesus christ, im kind of embarassed to be Irish and I want out, even if it means im looking for a job for ages, it’d be better than here!

        Im glad at least Australia is doing ok, a good few people I know have already gone, they went for a holiday then got works visas or sponsored or whatever you have to do and never came back, I dont blame them though. I also know of a quite substantial amount of people who are living in the US and Oz illegally because they felt that was a better option than coming back here. I wonder how Australia is fixed for vets, anyone hiring?! :-D

    • I think there is a lot of misinformation (due to either assumtions or ignorance) being spread about the current state of Australia’s economy. At the moment Australia is BOOMING due to the mining sector, with a skilled labour shortage emerging yet again. Now while this does not mean that anyone in the US/UK with an Arts degree will find work, it is certainly a great place to be a job hunter at the moment. Having said that, many also seem to be equally ignorant as to the visa requirements for being able to work Down Under, it would pay for many to have a look at Australia’s department of immigration website to see if you are even able to work. Some people are working under the false assumption that as long as you can make it to Australia you can find work and the rest is history. In many cases you will be required to be ‘sponsored’ by an employer, which has many implications for you and the employer, one of which is the need to pay reasonably high salaries, something the employer is not likely to do if he/she can find the talent locally – which I might say is very likely in the case of Arts students as there are planty in Australia. There are other visa options, but just keep in mind that there is currently a MASSIVE backlog of people attempting to enter Australia (due to the fact that many people do actually understand the Australian economy) and that “heading to Australia to find work” is significantly harder than most people understand.

      • >>Having said that, many also seem to be equally ignorant as to the visa requirements for being able to work Down Under, it would pay for many to have a look at Australia’s department of immigration website to see if you are even able to work.>>

        An excellent point. I got my visa because my partner is a dual citizen (and Australia has equitable immigration laws). It always cracks me up when a friend from the States asks me how to get a visa to come work in Australia. “Well, if you wanna do it the way I did, first find yourself a hot Aussie…”

  3. I graduated in 2008 and applied to 47 hundred thousand trillion jobs…. to no avail. I wrote more cover letters than I did papers in high school and college combined. I wanted to cry and die. I definitely cried and was frustrated out of my mind, but realized that the situation was only worsening. Instead of the dying part, I took a friend’s suggestion and went to live in Amsterdam for a year. I had the time of my life, volunteered as a research assistant at a great university to keep my mind active and worked at a restaurant in the heart of the city, speaking all the Dutch I was learning. It was killerrrr. I came back–with another great experience on my résumé, applied to a zillion more jobs and finally landed one. My experience may not be the best for everyone, but it’s a thought. I experienced something magical, learned so much, met incredible people, cleared my head of all the stressors at home, learned a language and I grew up.

    For those still searching:

    -utilize your alma mater! go to the career center or what-have-you, see what opportunities they have, and give them your cover letter and res to critique. contact your old professors–they’ve GOTTA know people in your field of study. perhaps they can make connections for you. also, check in with the alumni center and see if you can be connected with alum doing what you want to do.

    -exhaust every possible person you know… comb through the Facebook and LinkedIn and see what jobs people have. if it’s something that interests you, contact them, ask questions, send your res; maybe even ask them to set up a meeting with their boss so that–even if they’re not hiring–you can ask some questions and see what they would want to see in a candidate.

    -network your assssss off. the more people you meet, the larger your surface area is of people that can potentially help you. if you don’t have a job, get personal business cards made up. go to your area’s networking events and talk to people that are doing the things you want to do. check with your local chamber of commerce/comb the interweb to find out about events.


    • I never thought of meeting with a friend’s boss! Sounds like a great idea.

      Best extensive advice ever.

      • Hope it helps! I think that when everyone looks like you (went to a good college, did the internships, good grades, etc…), you really have to get creative and think outside the box. Brainstorm your butt off with ways to stand out (in a good way!) and meet the right people. I really believe that networking is so so soooo key. I have come across so many incredible opportunities just by getting out there (anywhere!) and just talking to people.

  4. I just graduated and I’m going back for a Masters next year. I just hope when I graduate from grad school it won’t be as difficult to find a decent job. I’ve applied to sooo many jobs post undergrad and now I’m doing AmeriCorps. Thank gawd!

    • I did AmeriCorps too. I’m just hoping I don’t have to land back in AmeriCorps WITH my Masters degree. We shall see.

    • I was very interested in joining AmeriCorps sometime this year if jobs don’t pan out too well. I could enter forbearance and get a bonus when I finish to pay a fraction of my loans off. How do you like it so far? What are you doing? Sorry to pry. I’ve been dying to find someone who’s in the program.

    • I joined the Peace Corps! IN THEORY, this means I’ll go back to the US with two years of work experience under my belt making me much more employable than my liberal arts degree.

      In practice, who knows? (I didn’t join for the job opportunities, I just joined ’cause it would be awesome. Which it is.)

      • The peace corps, that’s amazing, what’s that like? Do you get to work in lots of different countries and such like?

  5. More grad school for everyone! Specifically, you should all come to my large Midwestern University because it’s frickin hard to date ladies on a college campus when you’re not an undergrad ;)

    But before you do that, you should probably watch this video entitled “So You Wanna Get a PhD in the Humanities.” It’s so much truth, I almost cried while laughing:

  6. Education isn’t about getting a better paid job, its about improving yourself and your self worth. I wouldn’t change my student days for any other.

    Very few people graduate and walk into high paid jobs. Find a big company, start at the bottom and apply yourself no matter how menial the task. Application and education will eventually see you through.

    • yes yes but when your rent and student loan payment take 60% of your paycheck, when working 40+ hours a week at a nonprofit earns you less than you were earning waiting tables 3 nights a week, when you’re petrified of getting sick because you can’t even afford the co-pay, my ‘self-improvement’ loses its street cred.

      i never expected to ‘walk into a high paying job.’ i just want a job that allows me to pay back my loans at a decent rate so maybe by the time i’m 35 i can afford a hybrid. or baby. or something.

      and as for working your way up, well, very few of fortune 500 companies hire up instead of bringing in outsiders.
      and if you work in a small business environment, you pretty much have to wait for someone to die in order to move up.

      idk. maybe i’m just jaded.

    • I’m guessing that you probably have had a job for a long time.
      You know what, I don’t think anybody here is trying to apply to jobs they are not fully qualified for.

      I am certainly not, I HAVE been in the work force for 8 years. It upsets me when I talk about how difficult it is to get a job right now, and people just come up with why aren’t you trying entry level jobs?. Guess what? I AM. I’m going into a related field, but still have to start at the bottom.

      I am not going for the CIO or the COO position, I am looking for effing internships! in my 30s. I would love if you tried that after 8 years of experience it’s disheartening.

      • I’m feeling a little defensive here, I wasn’t being patronising I was trying to be positive.
        My potted history is as follows though. Got degree, got post grad degree, got an entry level job in the profession I trained in, but working in a Dept of Pathology, hated it, really really nightmare inducing hated it, couldn’t find a job elsewhere. Jacked it in, started again. Did temp work, any work I could get. Got a 3 month contract typing documents for a firm, they offered me a permanent admin role. Worked hard, and through time they gave me more responsibilities. 10 years later I’m a Finance Manager of a 20 mill pound account, with a company car and a few frills, but not lots of them. Paid for 40 hours a week, have to work 50-60 to meet deadlines. Its shit, but it’s paid the bills. Now 38 and not rich but am relatively debt free. You get there in the end, but sometimes you have to accept that it’s not all champagne and roses. Whilst you have food on the table and a roof over your head you have more than a lot of people out there.

    • I agree with this. Probably, mostly because its what I want to believe. I want to remember that I didn’t start school so that I could get a high paying job. I feel and believe that the things I have learned have changed me and enriched me as a person more than any money I might make later could.

      More than anything I try and remember that getting out from under student loan debt just the particular curse of our generation. I know my older cousin and his wife are stuck with mortgages on two houses that aren’t worth half of what they paid, and one of my bosses just lost his job and is having to adjust his family’s spending after decades of living off of a six figure salary. At least we’re young and flexible, not faced with losing the things we’ve spent our life building.

      Then the part of the article that says we are unwilling to settle, I think of as a really really good thing. As long as we are willing to work hard, we are smart enough to actually build a better world, and having our bubble of what life should be like popped so young we can see the future with better eyes as to what is realistic and important.

      AND, Rachel, YOU (and the other Autostraddle ladies) are the PERFECT example by working and writing here! Taking action and devoting your time and smarty smart brain to a cause that you believe in regardless of whether or not it will make you money. You know this. You got it. We got this. Statistics are scary, but its going to be ok because you are, we are, awesome and we are moving forward.

      Our generation might also really like pep talks. FUTURE! breathe… make a sandwich.

      • i invented this website because no one wanted to give me a job and so i created an LLC so I could give myself a job, except that i didn’t give myself a salary or benefits. i don’t know what i’m doing really. so i get by on a combination of reader donations and other surprise income like ad networks or an ‘investment.’ i say to myself, ‘you are an artist’ and try not to think about the future. also i think that i can sort of see the future, but that’s another story. oh i went to university of michigan, got a BA in english with honors in creative writing and a 3.8 gpa. waited tables all through college, etc. i had like 40 jobs. also i was generally really bad at most of these jobs. this is the only job i’m good at.

        i think also that everyone needs to pick a thing to shame other people about, employment or debt or being too safe or being too risky. there is so much shame around debt. and fear of it. people are self-righteous not to have it. everyone will judge me for having $15K in debt but i don’t care really, if that’s the price i pay to be able to make the things i want to make like this. that’s okay with me because i know this will pay off if i am patient/learn more things/get smarter.

        i don’t know why i think everything is going to be okay and that we’ll all be okay but i do.

        • Exactly my sentiment. I have this strange feeling of hope and optimism. I guess, if I don’t, I’m really screwed. The small business world and entrepreneurs are on the rise.

          I watched Vanguard thank you, recession and it talks about us 20somethings and how we are affected by the recession and what some are doing to make a living. Also, it compares our plight to Argentina’s similar downfall in 2001 and how they cope with it now. Very interesting. Watched it last night.

          I think big corporations are going to weaken even more so and people will support smaller businesses more and more. In China, they say that they are losing jobs that were outsourced to them as well because they make shit that they can’t sell back to the American ppl. I mean, American ppl are def not spending as much anymore.

          I can tell you, ALL my friends, including myself are hustlers and small biz owners and we support each other with pretty much everything.

          Just moved out to LA and looking for that same type of crowd. It’s a huge balancing act to use my degree (and passion) in media production for my artistic endeavors and also try to make money off of it through freelancing. Got a day job and am blessed for that, but hopefully I’ll be able to support myself soooner or later with my freelancing.

        • i launched a non-profit because i couldn’ get any work.
          now almost two years later, my work is stalled because my (business) partner had to get a real job to pay student loans and isn’t allowed to work with another health-related organization.
          also the funding dilemma is tricky because it’s not geared towards the ‘hip’ issues like micro-lending and spreading democracy. mind you that for every cent raised, i added another out of pocket.
          ANYWAYS! you’re awesome at what you do and proof that every cloud has a silver lining! THANKS!

    • It’s brutal trying to get a job in the legal field, and you can’t get hired anywhere else because you’re overqualified.

      • I’m attempting to forge a career as a law prof (unfortunately every other lawyer has the same idea).

    • You’re not forgotten! My girlfriend is 33 and in the same predicament. three degrees in law? You should search out small businesses and start ups and see if you can charge em for legal advice on biz or legal papers.

      I mean, when I get enough money flow, my and my biz partners are def looking to do things “the right” way and get an accountan and legal advisor for business.

      Just a thought.

    • You know what’s really sad?

      I was reading the comments and thinking, ‘Uhmm maybe I should go to law school after my B.A’ THEN I read this particular comment and now I’m thinking ‘Uhmm maybe I should practice living in a box so that I’m prepared for the future.’ I can just imagine how that’ll impress people! Efficiency to the max.

      New acquaintance: So what are your plans after your bachelors?
      Me: Oh I plan to become a destitute! Turns out this degree isn’t getting me anywhere but on the street!

      I’m only in college and have a few months before applying to University. I still really want to do a major in English! Am I setting myself up for disaster?

  7. Oh damn. It took me so long to get this pathetic little job at Food 4 Less. It damn well better be worth it when I graduate. =(

    I mean seriously, I already gave up going straight to psych or neuro because there just isn’t enough money to make it yet. So instead I’m making a pit stop in nursing. If I can’t get a job there I’m screwed. Come on economy, don’t be a bitch. =/

  8. Ughh tell me about it. I quit my boring ass job (which I had out grown) with no possibilities of advancement to concentrate on my masters degree, so I could have more options.

    And now ta da no jobs both my undergraduate and my graduate degree are in engineering/physical sciences and NO jobs. So English grads don’t feel bad there’s no jobs for anybody and at least your in your 20s. I’m in my early 30’s, the only thing going for me is that I have some experience. :(

      • I go to college in Delft, so i live there now, but I’m originally from Haarlem, small world! Je spreekt ook nederlands?

        • ja hoor! ik spreek nederlands omdat ik an au paiiiir was! one of my best friends from college was from venlo and after i graduated and couldn’t find a job in america, she suggested i move to NL! i also was a research assistant at UvA. I love Holland <3

    • I actually am thinking about an MA in the Netherlands…
      except “practically free” turns into 12,000E/yr for non-EU students.

      Which is still perhaps a better deal that I could get in a similar good program here. I won’t be looking seriously for another year (hopefully, if France will let me teach again!) but could I maybe harass you with a few questions about Dutch unis and life?

  9. Add me to the list! Well, I am not unemployed, but I have 3 degrees, including a Master’s, am nearing 30, and I work at a financial company…this would be fine if any of my degrees were in finance or business, alas they are not (English Lit, Psych, and Criminal Justice). I do not make very much money and am 1 of 2 people in my department who even have a college degree and my company prefers to hire outsiders instead of promoting from within. Oh, and I have staggering student loan debt, yay!

  10. So after I spend a large part of my life stressing over how I’m gonna pay for college, I get to eventually graduate after a hella lot hard work, enter the Real World, and spend a large part of my life stressing over getting a job to pay for life in general? Ok, noted.

    And in a slightly less bitter tone, I always figured that teaching would be a good way to go, because we always need teachers. Right? Apparently, I was wrong, because we’re getting rid of teachers now too.

  11. Look on the bright side, college graduates: you’re still a more desirable employee than me!

    I don’t have any interest in a degree. I can read classic lit and analyze German films on my own time. (But I am envious that you all survived academia with your brains intact because that is one thing I could never do. My life would be so much easier if I wasn’t so ADD and anti-authority.) So, you may be knee deep in school-related debt, but you also have automatic credibility. That probably counts for something.

    Unemployment is the perfect time to learn something new. Read a book, take a class, watch some MIT lectures online, and keep your mind active. And, volunteering is a great way to spend your day. These things look good on your resume and, even more importantly, will make you happier.

  12. Man, this sounds rough. I’m a freshman in college now, pursuing a degree in Theatre Directing, Playwriting, and Production, and hopefully a minor in Philosophy and Religion, and I’m already super worried there isn’t going to be anything for me!

    • What I tell my little sister, who also just started college, is instead of thinking about how you need to choose a major that fits you think about what job you would like and tailor your education to that. And don’t think of general, normal jobs or perfect, ideal jobs. Find people that you admire that are doing weird, quirky, realistic things and talk to them about how they built their business or got to where they are. Thaaat’s what I wish I did / what I am having to do now.

    • hey- good for you! Enjoy college and don’t worry about it until you have to ;) I’m a senior theatre major but I figure it would be hard for me to get a job in acting/the theatre even if the economy was good :P haha

      but really people who study theatre are really employable- it gives you people skills/etc sounds like you’ll have the ability to direct people and understand them ;)
      (…or so I tell myself…) :/

  13. Another one here with several degrees from the most prestigious colleges in the world. Literally.

    I don’t make enough to live on. I don’t have health insurance. Not eligible for assistance- used my ninja research skills to research that.

    This summer, I was dragged into the ER. I didn’t want to go because I was broke. I put my life at risk because I can’t pay the bill. They told me not to worry. Guess who’s been getting lots of mail?

    It’s been countless years for me, too. Try applying to entry level jobs with a stellar education. You don’t get interviewed. There are fewer jobs you are actually qualified for, that are highly competitive, and all of the other special snowflakes are applying for them, too. You can probably find part time work, but then you have no money for rent, and you won’t be able to stitch two pt jobs together because your schedules will not allow for that. (I’m sorry to sound so negative, but this topic is near and dear).

    So, at this point, I’m really at the F*you place to anyone who tells me what it’s like without having lived it. If I could just walk into a ft job, I would.

    I’m happy you published this. This has been going on a lot longer than people have been talking about.

  14. I wish I had money for grad school// this makes me even more stressed out. I DO NOT see any uhauls in my future; particularly uhauls back to my parents house… hahaha

  15. I’m a month from graduating from grad school, a master in architectural design. In a very Masoch-move, I’m thinking about a phD. Realistically, though, I won’t, because I can’t afford it/need to get a job. No one wants to build right now, so we are out of those, though. And there are a bunch of students willing to work for free as interns, so whatever work needs to be done, they hire students instead of architects holding a degree.


    I love being an adult when it comes down to sex and drinking, but for everything else it pretty much sucks.

    • “I love being an adult when it comes down to sex and drinking, but for everything else it pretty much sucks.”

      Aaaaand yes.

      Adulthood, you are over-rated. Terribly, terribly over-rated (and I am terribly under-prepared; thanks, liberal arts education, thanks a lot).

      Really, at this point, I’m banking on finding that elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Or writing brochures about the evils of pre-marital sex (the right has all the funding, amirite?). Or making earrings out of soggy leaves and/or cracked fillings. Or catching and selling a unicorn. But, most likely, all of them. Plus some.


  16. though, though, though…

    Remember when we used discmans and they didn’t have that anti-jump thingie built in yet, so songs were always repeteaning if you weren’t absolutely still?
    I’m like that today.

  17. AS, this is not instilling confidence in me as I’m trying to assemble some form of portfolio in order to apply to honors english lit and creative writing. In fact, quite the opposite.


  18. I graduated with an English Lit degree. I couldn’t find a job in any field that would relate to my degree. I had to figure out what it was that I was good at. I knew I could work hard, so I just needed a chance. I applied to a college for an entry level financial aid position. I made okay money, but I definitely had no disposable income. I watched so many of my coworkers leave the school for another job in the same field that paid them a few thousand dollars more. As my peers left and I stayed, I became the “veteran” of the department, solely because I stayed. And guess what happened at my annual review because I stayed- they gave me a $6000 raise for my hard work and loyalty. I stayed in the field, not because I loved it, but because I liked the people. I was happy there. Every year I stayed I would get more of a raise and promotions. I am doing just fine now-not because I waited for my dream job to come along, but because I took a risk. You get your feet in the door, young Americans. If you work hard, wait it out, and be a team player, you will all be just fine. I know because I did it. It gets better. I promise. :)

  19. I’m one of the lucky ones. I earned a dubious degree — in writing, of all things — and I graduated in 2007, right at the start of this long and painful mess. I spent about three months looking for a full-time job and found one with a small publisher that is — miracle of miracles — not going to go out of business in the immediate future!

    My advice to anyone still in college is to consider every possible job within your dream industry, and to try to familiarize yourself with the basics of each. When I was in school, although I was studying writing, I took classes in stuff like photography and design. My skills with a camera weren’t nearly enough to get me a job as a staff photographer at a magazine or newspaper, but they were enough to allow me to be serviceable at taking mugs and other simple photos for publications. I’m part of my company’s hiring committee, and so I can tell you that those secondary and tertiary skills are things that a lot of businesses — especially small, independent ones without big budgets — look for in new hires.

  20. Some of the people who are unemployed don’t have any useful skills. Yes, the economy is in the shitter, but if you don’t know how to do anything . . .

  21. i wouldnt come to australia its just as bad here lol

    I have a part time job that just pays the rent and bills. maybe there is something in the cities, but im from a small town and there is NOTHING.
    even when u go to the job networks to look up what jobs are available its nothing!!! maybe a job at mcdonalds, but thats about it. and even then u probably have to be 16 to get it lol.

    • I don’t know if I’d say “just as bad.” Well, it depends on the *part* of the States, obviously (or the part of Australia for that matter), but there are places that make Australia look like Fantasy Unicorn Land in comparison.

      Which isn’t to say things are great, here, either…

  22. i have no idea who would be best to reply to so i’ll just put this here: as much as i was bitching in this post there’s really no point in worrying. so everyone hyperventilating should stop. because really, what can you do? nothing. i mean, i guess you could switch your major from philosophy to business, but why? you honestly won’t be much better off and you’ll be bitter and unhappy. i picked the major and courses and jobs and life path that i did because i felt like there wasn’t really anything else, and i was right. you’ve made it this far, somehow, and the rest of your life will be fine, even the year after you graduate.

    also, as for practical advice, there’s this.

  23. yeah, there are those of us who are 30-somethings with 6-figure debt and too smart for our own good. or at least “too smart” for this economy. but your’re right rachel, we should all stop hyperventilating and just calm the f*ck down (as i write this from my parent’s living room — now that i live here with them i guess it would be “our” living room). sigh.

    nevermind. fml.

    • i can’t tell if you’re being serious, but either way, i’m sorry you’re broke and we’re all broke. as someone who worries too much every minute of every day i am nonetheless aware that it has never actually helped me. but also obviously i am still doing it. i don’t know. sorry. i have no advice. other than that i recommend saving your change and rolling it to deposit at the bank, it really does add up.

  24. ugh. I dropped out of a PhD (first year, in aboriginal health history) due to mental illness and poverty. I had one published study under my belt, but knew it would be years and years before I started “breaking even” financially, and longer emotionally, so I thought I would get a “real job” in a bank, earning barely over minimum wage, with no benefits.

    so now I’m unemployed, because my mental illness is kind of running rampant and leaving my soul like roadkill, and the student loans are taking chunks out of my bank account for a degree that I will likely never see any rewards from.

    so yeah. if my body turns up in the lake across the street, being involuntarily gay is only a tiny part of it.

  25. ok, my advice to anyone who is thinking about going to graduate school: if your subject has a PhD (like English, Sociology, Psychology, etc) apply to that even if you’re unsure if you want to go all the way. You’re more likely to get funding and if you do decide to peace out after the Masters you may have less debt than if you pursued a terminal Masters in that field.

    Also, research the funding situation of your schools before deciding to apply. See if you can find generous departments. Despite the fact that California’s budget is imploding, my department is still offering a generous package to incoming students ’cause they are trying to incentivize the best students they can get for our top of the second tier program.

    Also, you may want to consider this before applying to grad school: http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php?f=1215

    • Finding a funded PhD while the job market is abysmal is a good idea – even if it’s in some obscure academic area or at a lower ranked university.

      I’m currently in the UK, and on academic job sites still advertising LOTS of PhD funding packages.

      Of course, getting a job at the end of a PhD is a different matter.

      • Yes, also in case anyone was wondering doing a PhD is not a cakewalk and is NOTHING like undergrad. There is little fun exploration of ideas like in undergrad classes and lots of narrow, solitary knowledge building. You essentially spend 6-8 years learning how to speak/interact/discuss within your incredibly small interest area/research within your professional field.

        If you don’t want to be an academic or know what skills you want to pick up for non-academic work it probably isn’t worth it. You should go MAYBE if you have like no, NO other options then it might be worth it for a FREE, fully funded masters. But otherwise you’ll spend the best years of your life (aka your 20s) stunted compared to your fellow work drones.

        I promise I am not a bitter grad student. I actually am fine with my decision to go to grad school and my more than likely not going into an academic job, but I have a seriously unique position in that I have absolutely no debt to pay off from undergrad or from grad school so far. However, I am now in my 4th year and at the age of 29 (i took some time off between undergrad and grad) starting to feel a little itchy about wanting to live a more middle class/have nice things life.

        I’m just saying, think about it before hand. Like really.

  26. I think there is a lot of misinformation (due to either assumtions or ignorance) being spread about the current state of Australia’s economy. At the moment Australia is BOOMING due to the mining sector, with a skilled labour shortage emerging yet again. Now while this does not mean that anyone in the US/UK with an Arts degree will find work, it is certainly a great place to be a job hunter at the moment. Having said that, many also seem to be equally ignorant as to the visa requirements for being able to work Down Under, it would pay for many to have a look at Australia’s department of immigration website to see if you are even able to work. Some people are working under the false assumption that as long as you can make it to Australia you can find work and the rest is history. In many cases you will be required to be ‘sponsored’ by an employer, which has many implications for you and the employer, one of which is the need to pay reasonably high salaries, something the employer is not likely to do if he/she can find the talent locally – which I might say is very likely in the case of Arts students as there are planty in Australia. There are other visa options, but just keep in mind that there is currently a MASSIVE backlog of people attempting to enter Australia (due to the fact that many people do actually understand the Australian economy) and that “heading to Australia to find work” is significantly harder than most people understand.

  27. I’ve always thought it was all about WHO you know, not WHAT you know… In my Junior year of undergrad (2006), I was offered a summer position as a Office Manager for a very big media company. The offer was given to me by a guy at my church. ANd it also helped that my mom is employed there too. I accepted and took advantage of every minute of it. I spent my summer there working hard and networking within the company, letting everyone know I was working on a degree in Print Journalism. After the summer I was offered 2 seperate internships in the company, and my Office Manager position was exended through the school year. It was a lot but I made it work. Once I graduated in 2007, I was offered a full time freelance position as an assistant online producer and I knew I was set.

    Cut to 2010 – Company layoffs and downsizing have arrived and I’m fighting to keep a job that I’ve dedicated 4 years and all of my time to. So now, dedication means nothing, as well as the networking I’ve done here. And since this was the only job I’ve had towards a career on my resume(never including retail jobs), I’m afraid I won’t be hired by anyone becuase of the lack of variety/companies worked. This sucks for me!

  28. I graduated from college a year ago, moved home, and spent a couple months pounding out job application after job application with no luck. My solution? Moved to a national park! Seriously, seasonal jobs can be incredible and mine saved my sanity. The work itself is maybe not so interesting(mostly housekeeping/waitressing/recreation/retail jobs), but 1) thanks to super cheap employee housing you save nearly all the money you make 2) you get to live in an awesome community of free spirited people who are all trying to figure out the same things you are and 3) you get to live in some of the most beautiful places in the country. I made enough money to pay off my monthly student loans, had some amazing experiences, found a wonderful community, and saved up a little bit of money to fund a little bit of traveling and the next job hunt.

  29. I’m going to be 23 very soon, I work at “unnamed corporate coffee company” and live at home 3,000 miles away from where I went to school and made all of my friends.

    Nearly all but three (including myself) of my coworkers are immigrants or children of immigrants and barely got through high school, let alone made it to any sort of college. Now, I was raised in a household where hard work and equality where the biggest values. I started working at sixteen, and have had numerous minimum wage (and higher) jobs over the years. In college I had two really great jobs (both in my field, and were decently paying). I love most of my coworkers, but there are days when I am struggling to take out the insanely heavy trashbags of coffee grinds when I think to myself, how is this fair?

    I have so much debt, so much unused knowledge and here I am, taking out trash for $8/hr. It’s in those moments when I think, maybe I shouldn’t have gone to college, because in reality I could have just stayed at home got a job here and be making MORE money than I am now.

    My mom always says to me that the information and knowledge I gained in college is something no one can ever take away from me, and while that’s all fine and good, I’m basically as useful to this job market as my uneducated (and some undocumented) coworkers. Or at least that was the message I received after applying to over 100 jobs (from assistant curators, to PAs, to maids) and this was the ONLY job I got an interview for.

    I also am sick of my friends who get to live in the cities they want on their parents dime and lie about it. I still haven’t quite figured out how any of them survive on their “savings” in NYC without real jobs. (Also I’m not sure how anyone had savings after college anyway; I spent all the money I made on bills and food.) I know deep down that it’s their parents keeping them afloat, and while my mom has said so many times that if she could she would but she can’t I still can’t help feeling robbed of something inherent. (This has been the source of many fights since I have moved home, which ends in me feeling like an asshole, and my mom crying). I feel like this year in my life, when I will probably spend my birthday alone with my mom and my dog, will be a lost year. I have no friends here anymore. And the few friends I had in high school that didn’t turn into complete burn-outs don’t live here anymore. It’s incredibly lonely.

    So what I’m trying to say is, I’m sick of the baby boomers calling our generation entitled or selfish. I have a minimum wage job that I get up and go to with a smile on my face everyday at 4am. I work really hard so that someday soon I will get a raise or a promotion, even if it’s somewhere I don’t really care about working. And maybe in a year or two I will have saved enough money on rent and utilities by living at home that I can move back to my friends and my life and hopefully find a better job that requires my education, or at least have enough money to cushion my minimum wage job for a little while longer.

    I just wish I could find a little shred of hope to hang on to. But that in itself seems to be harder than finding any kind of job.

    • this is weird because just today at my job at an (independent) coffeeshop we had a customer whom, upon making conversation with my coworker about what she does outside of work, was apparently just SHOCKED to find that all of us working there were either graduates of or currently enrolled in college. where i live even the taking-out-trash-for-$8-an-hour jobs are taken by overeducated people. maybe it’s because i live in an area with a ton of schools/academics? either way, i really wanted to let him know that while i’m happy for him that his career apparently allows him to be TOTALLY UNAWARE of the recession the rest of us are not so lucky and also he should tip.

  30. THAT’S why i can’t sleep anymore… the GOOD article did nothing for my self-esteem (ignorance really is bliss). more tossing and turning to come.

  31. Ah I have no idea what to do with my life these days. I was pretty set on Peace Corps but just took the GREs today and am now thinking more about grad school, possibly outside of the US. Another option which is really appealing is try to get a grant and embark on one giant road trip with a friend while writing a book. There’s also that idea of you know, trying to get a REAL job, but reading this has made me realize that may not be the best option. There are so many possibilities out there though! It’s exciting/overwhelming/scary but I’m hoping the future will be a pretty cool place for us all.

  32. I was so naive to think this was mainly a British Isles thing! It consoles me this is the coo in the USA too….is that selfish?

  33. Aghh these comments are the most depressing things in the world. I am an undergrad studying English Lit and this is so scary and sad to me. Should I just quit before I accrue enough debt to keep me working a minimum wage job for all eternity? :(

Comments are closed.