Overeducated And Underemployed: Generation-Y's Naïveté In The Workplace

by Rachel Smethurst

Any recent graduate looking to secure a job in today’s society knows that is a task easier said than done. It doesn’t take a degree in neuroscience or advanced psych to understand that we are a generation of educated job seekers, wadding around in a finite job pool.

As more youths enroll in postsecondary education, we collectively increase the quality of the work we supply. As a result, employers lose education as a primary indicator of quality applicants, and the job market becomes oversaturated with undifferentiated qualified applicants.

In short, for those who concentrate on academics, the only difference between you and the next applicant is a 2-5% margin in GPA and the letters comprising your name. In the end, most undergraduate students are left with the misguided opinion that a degree in hand will open the golden gates to employment.

Discovery of your slightly lackluster CV occurs a little too late. It isn’t until the tenth proverbial door slams in your face that you realize that you need experience to get experience.

At this point, you have three options in front of you: settle for a less than desirable job, pursue higher education, or seek out resume padding opportunities. Any high demand position will require all three. If, upon graduation, you lack ‘quantifiable results’ that make your resume sparkle, you should expect the next year or two to be spent catching up to your on-track peers.

Time will need to be spent allocated to actively searching out any and all opportunities that will add value when you’re finally in the interview seat.

The harsh reality for our generation -- those who have already graduated -- is that there is no easy solution to finding a job. Simply put, if you have waited until graduation to acquire professional experience, then you will be an unfitting candidate for a career position.

You will now need to work twice as hard to prove you have value beyond that little piece of paper you’re standing out in the cold with.

Those who have yet to graduate can leverage their remaining years. Aspiring and driven students need to seek out internships preemptively and recondition their expectations. Students need to understand that an undergraduate education alone will not secure them a job, or even an interview.

Wanting a job right out of the academic gates will be highly dependent on the professional experience you attain before you exit through them.

Those four years should be split between academic learning and gaining experience, utilizing all internships and co-ops that will help to differentiate them for employment.

This complex problem requires a long-term perspective change that incorporates all involved. Students need to know to seek out professional experience, but employers need to offer financially feasible opportunities for students to gain that necessary experience.

Without offering paid internships, companies can lump extremely attractive applicants in with the unattractive, simply because it’s hard to financially afford the opportunity cost of attaining that experience. The truth is that university is not an interim between high school and the workplace, and focusing solely on academics will not guarantee anything.

Students need to understand that university is not the traditional experience that we are sold growing up, and if they choose to view it as such, they will have a difficult time making the jump from academics to the workplace.

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