Class is in Recession

By
February 11, 2008

Call them millennials, generation Y or echo boomers, the college kids entering the workforce now are part of a different generation. With the economy facing a big recession, they can expect a few lean years and, according to experts, even for those millenials with bachelor’s degrees, finding a job may be difficult.

Mills economics professor Siobhan Reilly said that the current recession has been caused in part by upsets in the credit market and the way people handle debt, including the trend of taking out mortgages on homes in order to spend cash.

Reilly said she thinks the coming recession will be similar to the 1970s, “when we saw both inflation and unemployment.” Trends in hiring, according to an article on cnnmoney.com, reflect this.

“With economists looking for economic growth to stall in the months ahead, many are forecasting that employers will get very cautious with their hiring plans going forward.”

According to Kate Dey, Director of Career Services at Mills, “Hiring is down, especially with smaller companies.”

Dey said new college graduates searching for jobs should target bigger companies first because larger firms tend to have a buffer against economic downturns. Larger firms also offer more entry-level positions.

“Where we’re noticing the most softness is in non-profits and smaller companies. Education organizations, such as advocacy groups, are taking a wait-and-see attitude because of [proposed] state funding cuts on top of everything else,” said Dey.

College graduates are in especially precarious positions, because many have student loans and little job experience.

“The reality check to a student’s career search is their financial situation,” said Dey. She advised students take “bridge jobs” if their finances require it.

Professor Reilly echoed Dey’s advice.
“Don’t wait around, this recession is going to get worse, not better.”

Nevertheless, “college graduates should pat themselves on the back. They’ve done the best thing they can do to recession-proof themselves,”Reilly said.

But, she added, the challenges facing the millennial generation are big.

“[This] generation is an exceptionally large cohort entering the job market in the teeth of a recession,” she said.

But not all millenials are worried about the recession. Kristie Kern, who graduated from the Mills MBA program last May, said, “We haven’t tried enough to be worried yet.”

Kern said out of three resumes she has put out, she has received one call back. But she said that her student loan debt would affect her decisions. “I would definitely take a job to have some income and be able to start paying off loans.”

According to Professor Reilly, graduate school is another option for students during a recession. She emphasized that being able to defer loan payments during graduate school could make a lot of sense.

“When you have loans, inflation is your friend,” said Reilly.

Economics professor Lorien Rice agreed. “In general, whenever there is a downturn in the economy.lots of people decide to go back and get a higher degree, if they find they are facing poor or mediocre job prospects,” said Rice.

Sociology professor Bruce Williams said that the college degree has become so commonplace that it is no longer enough. Sociability and competence are the two tools for career success, according to Professor Williams.

He said that students should increase their active vocabulary, and work on written and communication skills in order to have success in careers. He added that a quality senior thesis “shows a person of quality.”

But Professor Williams also said that competency was not enough. “The small things can make or break you,” he said. At interviews, he said, it is important to elaborate a little, to have good manners and do research about the employer.

“It is about understanding the culture.” He said this was especially important for people of color and women in white male-dominated professions.

Dey emphasized that despite the poor prospects in the near future, the Millenial Generation is very tech-savvy and know what they want.

“I think they will be tremendous leaders,” said Dey.


Class is in Recession was published on February 11, 2008 in Features

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