Don’t Become an Unemployed College Graduate

We let our kids aspire to be astronauts, doctors and teachers, and tell them that they can achieve their dreams if they do well in school. When they start elementary school, we tell them that a college education is the ticket to success: a good job, a stable salary, and a place in society. There’s no doubt that most students with college degrees fair better in life than those without, but what about all those unemployed college graduates?

The Class of 2013 has just been released from universities nationwide. A lucky 10% have already found jobs in their field, earning at least close to what they’re worth and making good use of their degrees. It’s a sad story for other graduates though, who are either underemployed or living at home, jobless. While being jobless, they’re also strapped with tens of thousands of dollars worth of student loan debt and no hope of paying it off.

Those who graduated since 2009 are three times more likely to not have found a full-time job than those from the classes of 2006 through 2008. – Huffington Post

So what gives? The formula for landing a good job has always been to get a degree in something you enjoy and go after what you love. “You can do anything you put your mind to,” and our mind has always been on success and education. But the job market is tougher than ever, and unemployed college graduates are stuck in the job search loophole.

Even when they find a job, it’s usually in a different field than what they went to school for. Those who manage to get through the interview process (or get an interview at all) are underpaid because of the sheer number of applicants with the same level of education and experience. If you haven’t graduated yet, or are still figuring out what you want to do with your life, consider these options:

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Option #1: Change Your Degree

Job sites like Indeed, LinkedIn and Monster might not show it, but there are about 3.7 million job openings right now. Yeah, right. No really, there are literally millions of jobs out there waiting for you, but leave your 4-year degree behind—no one needs it. Your dreams may have left you with a BA in English Literature, but technical jobs in healthcare, education, and IT require technical degrees.

It’s easy to assume that an Associate degree won’t get you much further than answering phones at your family business or flipping burgers as an assistant manager at McDonald’s. But the reality is much different.  A 2-year education can get you out of the classroom and into real, hands-on experience in a variety of highly skilled fields. Respiratory Therapy, Industrial Engineering, Programming—these are all high-paying jobs that don’t require a Bachelors degree.

Instead of graduating with experience studying and passing tests, you’ll have the actual experience that employers are looking for that most college grads don’t have.

Can you guess what else you’ll get with a technical degree? Half the student loan debt, and a likely a higher salary. “Nearly 30% of Americans with associate’s degrees now make more than those with bachelor’s degrees, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce,” says CNNMoney.

Option #2: Start a Business

Some say that college is for those who want to be employees, not entrepreneurs.

Mark Zuckerberg made Facebook and became a billionaire without finishing his degree at Harvard University. The same goes for Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. It’s unlikely that you’ll make it to fame and riches of their magnitude, but imagine the ever-rising cost of college.

You can hand more than $45,000 to a college of your choice, or keep that money to yourself. Choose to start a small business doing something you enjoy, like fixing computers or opening a food cart selling your favorite treats. You could take a few classes in website design and offer to build sites for new businesses in your area. By putting money towards your strengths and passions, you’re building up your own dreams—not someone else’s.

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Option #3: Begin Investing

Don’t have the confidence to start your own business, or a specific field in mind to go to a vocational school? Consider taking a job, any job. Work at Walmart stocking shelves, or at a fast food restaurant while living with your parents or friends. Put as much of your income into savings as you can, and take a course in investing.

A lot of college graduates spend so much time paying off their loans well into their 30s and 40s without putting a cent towards their retirement. By saving and learning how to invest, you can start building your financial future now rather than later.

High school students are being coached to go to college and be successful, even though the statistics show that success isn’t guaranteed. Maybe you’ve found yourself graduating college with an expensive piece of paper and no idea what to do next but pray for a job. Perhaps you know exactly what you want to do with your life, but can’t afford the time and cost of college spent “figuring it out.”

You aren’t alone, and you don’t have to end up like the many unemployed college graduates struggling to find a job. Learn how to manage your money as soon as you can, and paint a new financial future for yourself.