The XX Factor

Graduating Into the Recession: Reader Responses

The results are in. Unless you majored in engineering or accounting , it’s not a great year to be graduating from college. This spring, only 19.7 percent of graduating seniors who applied for a job have one lined up for after graduation, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers , compared to 51 percent of students graduating in 2007 and 26 percent in 2008.

Last week we invited college seniors to e-mail us about their experiences of graduating into a recession. Here are a few of their stories.

From Sophie at Wesleyan:

Not too long ago, a friend of mine pointed out that the Wesleyan Meal Point is currently stronger than the dollar. We can laugh about that right now, because it’s Senior Week and we have no responsibilities except putting together great costumes for Senior Cocktails. Tonight’s theme is “Would You Be My Friend if I Wore This?” In many ways, the recession doesn’t feel real to us. I don’t have any money of my own, and I don’t have a job. So far, not a whole lot has changed.

What’s more, as an aspiring writer, I have never been so naïve as to think I would land a job right after graduation that paid me to write. I like to remind myself that I am part of a long tradition. Hawthorne worked in a customs house. Melville took to the High Seas. Orwell shot an elephant.

However, I did think that when the day came when someone was willing to pay for my words, paper would be involved. I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember (aside from brief flirtations with the standard elementary school goals–vet, unicorn, the kid from Rookie of the Year ). And here I am about to embark on life just as print publications are falling apart. I do not want to be one of a million writers lost in the Internet.

So as much as I want to believe that a world without paper periodicals cannot exist, it might be time for me to face facts. Or get better at writing something book length.

From Jessica in D.C.:

I just graduated with a degree in Spanish and Linguistics from Georgetown, and am definitely feeling the sting of the recession. I started applying for jobs as early as last November, and didn’t expect to still not have anything after six months. I’ve applied to so many jobs that I can’t count them all, and lost track after I hit 100. I’ve had at least eight phone interviews and nine in-person interviews, including two final-round in-person interviews. But no offers.

I really wanted to stay in D.C. after graduation, but was forced to come home because I had no way of paying my rent. Right now I’m looking for summer jobs and thinking about doing Americorps or some other sort of year of service, and then going back to grad school, if the full-time job thing doesn’t work out.

From Rachel in Oklahoma:

Last Saturday, I graduated from the University of Oklahoma. I graduated summa cum laude with a 3.84 GPA, a double major in Letters & Political Science, and a minor in German. I have been employed for two years as a Writing Fellow at the Honors College, interned for a Women’s Leadership Program, interned for two female Democratic political consultants during the 2008 election cycle, and interned at the U.S. Capitol all last summer for an Oklahoma Congressman.

While I’d like to think that resume makes me no slacker, my job search has been telling me otherwise. I’ve already applied to 15-20 positions via e-mail… and heard nothing. Well, to be fair, four places have responded with gracious rejections.

I have been telling myself that no one is interested in hiring a woman still in school with a Norman, Okla. address on her resume, but that theory will soon be put to the test. Armed with a D.C. address (I move into my sublet on May 29th) and a diploma, I’ll soon find out exactly how (un)employable I am, or how unforgiving this job market is for recent grads like myself. I plan on being aggressive, even obnoxious if necessary. We’re talking phone calls, walk-ins, lunch meetings, happy hour networking-the works. I have only three months to find myself a job, or else I’ll find myself on Mom and Dad’s couch, just like Noreen did. But instead of Reality Bites , I’ll probably be crying over episodes of The West Wing , pining for what might have been.