Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hit the streets, not the courthouse

Perplexing? Mythed?

Just a couple of words that I can repeat to describe my reaction when I read this story on CNN.com on Aug. 3. A recent grade is suing her alma mater for tuition plus $2,000 for stress. 

She blames the college's Office of Career Advancement for not helping her find a job. She has the credentials after all — including a business administration degree in information technology and a 2.7 GPA.

I wonder if the graduate has been paying attention to the economy over the last year of her education. If it took her four years to get a degree, she probably enrolled at a good time. But, the sands of time have passed while she was studying and things changed. 

I feel bad for this young woman and for all the other people I know who can't find jobs in their chosen field. I know people who lost jobs due to state government cuts. I know people who lost newspaper jobs. I know people who recently graduated and can't find an entry-level job. 

I hope this recent graduate is not indicative of those leaving the buffer-zone of colleges these days. Students have to realize that it's a bit tough out there. When I graduated from college in 1993, I began full-time employment at a newspaper within a week. Sure, it wasn't The New York Times, but The Chatsworth Times gave me plenty of meaty work experience. 

Today's graduates are also facing a high volume of competition. When companies post job openings, they are overwhelmed (sometimes by the thousands) with people eager to fill the job. There are also people with impeccable credentials out there on the prowl for job openings. While my community journalism background is solid, I might have a difficult time getting a job at CNN right now. There are thousands of journalists with broader experience than me searching for a job.

I personally think students are often taking on too many student loans to get an education. Maybe we can't have it all — an education, the parties, no job and a new car. I'm a bit biased, because I attended a public university (the University of Georgia), lived in the dorms (before they were suites with AC) and worked in my college town and in my hometown. 

Since my college days, I have witnessed an uneasy trend where my newspaper colleagues would have tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. During my last job as an editor, I had difficulties finding applicants who could afford to take an entry level reporter's position. I heard, "By the time, I pay my student loans, rent, car and buy clothes I won't be able to eat." I wanted to yell, "Cut out the clothes." 

"Good luck with that." What more could I say?

To anyone looking for work, I say, "It may take a while to get a job. And, you may have to take one you don't like right not. You may just have to take one."

To the alumna suing her alma mater, I say, "You may have some luck finding a job, if you hit the streets and not the courthouse."

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