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The New Face of an American Graduation

Graduation. Once a triumphant celebration, most seniors are now dreading the horrific shove into the damaged economy and dwindling work force. Just don’t tell them they’re over-reacting.

Graduation. Once a triumphant celebration, most seniors are now dreading the horrific shove into the damaged economy and dwindling work force. Just don’t tell them they’re over-reacting.

Shudhanshu Alishetti graduated from University of California, San Diego, in June with a premedical bioengineering degree. He’s been looking for medical and biological jobs for two months. And so far, no luck.

“There are tons of volunteer positions available, but I would expect to be paid after completing a difficult degree in one of the top bioengineering departments in the country,” he said.

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Although Alishetti is looking for a job in an advanced industry, many graduates with a broad range of degrees have been having a difficult time getting a job in their desired field.

The job search time is much longer and strenuous now for recent college grads, said Dr. James Tarbox, the director for San Diego State’s career services. He witnesses students’ and graduates’ frustration with the declining job market.

“For college students, it’s pressing on them because people who have more experience are willing to take less money and get the job, so they might be squeezed out of a position,” Tarbox said.

Only half of recent graduates who responded to an SDSU career services poll in May 2008 said they had a full-time job lined up; 5 percent were working part-time. 

Tarbox said students can easily find jobs in accounting and engineering industries, and should steer clear of manufacturing and construction jobs.

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“In San Diego, our base is really real estate, tourism and banking, and we’ve seen a big hit in all of those areas,” he said.

A single person in San Diego needs to make about $34,000 a year to make ends meet, according to the 2008 San Diego Workforce Partnership report. That boils down to $16.22 an hour, working 40-hour weeks. About 37.2 percent of the county’s workers make less than that.

But there are more consequences to this dire economy. It’s a struggle for many people to even get a job. The San Diego unemployment rate reached a 13-year high in July, hitting 6.4 percent of residents, according to the 2008 Manpower Workforce Report.

College graduates are having to curb spending and begin saving, meanwhile taking jobs they don’t like, relocating to another city and even moving back in with their parents.

Tarbox said for the last five years, more college graduates have been moving back home with their parents for a couple of years just to get out of debt or to save up money.

“I know a lot of people who have had to move back home because they are unable to find a job in San Diego, so they have to live with their parents,” said Jeff Bryant, who graduated from UCSD in March and recently flew to Singapore to interview for a job in health care administration.

Doing so is definitely an option for him, he said, if he needs to save up money before moving somewhere else to find a job.

The number one reason why students leave San Diego is because they have more opportunities in other places, Tarbox said.

Bryant said moving to Singapore will be beneficial for him because their economy is taking off and it’ll be a lot easier for him to find a job there than in the states. Singapore ranked first out of the East Asian economies for the third year in a row in the World Bank’s annual Doing Business survey and currently has a 2.3 percent unemployment rate.

But Tarbox doesn’t think post-graduates need to leave the United States for a job. If a person is college-educated and can upgrade his or her skills, then he or she can find employment, Tarbox said.

“Millennials are taking their tech-saviness for granted,” said Tarbox. “That is the newest emerging skill employers want.”

Although graduates possess up-to-date knowledge and fresh ambition, they are disenchanted with the job market because of the high competition for the same entry-level jobs that all yearn for their multimedia skills.

“Financial institutions aren’t in good shape,” said Bryant. “There’s a lot less jobs, people aren’t spending as much money because they don’t have the money to spend, and inflation is increasing. It’s leading to a downward spiraling situation.”

As Wall Street falls apart and the national unemployment rate continues to rise, Americans are looking to the government for help and stability. Tarbox has faith that the new presidential election will bring about a positive change in America’s economy.

“The consumer confidence index is the lowest it’s been since it was created,” he said.

“With a new president, there seems to be optimism.”

Optimism that will encourage employers to hire, employees to spend and students to look forward to their careers.

Alishetti said he knows the job market won’t get better in the next year. “But I’m just going to have to keep trying,” he said.

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