Probably not since the baby boomer generation were in their 20s looking to begin their professional lives has there been a generation of graduates facing as difficult a time as those right now. Many of those graduating are finding no jobs in their field of study, companies looking to exploit them through unpaid internships, and intense competition for jobs only paying minimum wage. To most this brings to mind two obvious questions; why is this happening and what can you do?
The answer to the first question can really be traced back to the often mentioned economic crisis of 2008. Put simply a huge percentage of the baby boomer generation had their savings and pensions wiped out by that crisis and cannot retire as they had planned. Also, due to the damage caused by that economic crisis, and the continuing financial uncertainties in both the United States and the European Union, the economy is lurching along failing to create much in the way of well-paying full-time jobs, and instead simply belching out part-time/temporary jobs at minimum wage or slightly above it. Those who are losing their full-time jobs are people in their 30s and 40s who have experience that far outstrips those graduates in their 20s and who are coming to the realization that they have no choice, but to accept the low-paying jobs to try and scrape by to survive. This is why graduates in their 20s are having such a tough go of it and it’s important to understand what exactly is going on if they are to have any chance.
The next question of what can a graduate in their 20s do about this is not as easy to answer because what may work for one person may not work for another. However, there are some things that you can try to improve your odds of jumpstarting your career.
First, you need to ensure that your resume is as well constructed as possible. Any paying jobs and volunteer jobs should simply be listed under an employment section. You did the work whether you were paid or not, and gained that experience, so don’t denigrate it by putting it anywhere else. Simply put in your employment section the job title, the year and month you started and finished each job, who your employer was, where the job was, what you did in the job, what roles you played in the job if it radically differed from your job title, and the software/hardware you used while working at the job. It’s usually best to write out a long version first for each employment entry because depending what job you’re applying for you may want to emphasis a particular skill or experience over another. If you have it all written out in detail you won’t have to struggle later on to recall whether you have experience in a particular area.
Believe it or not listing the software/hardware you used in each job, even if the job you’re applying for isn’t an IT one, is very critical as it will tell your potential employer you’re computer savvy and won’t need much in the way of training. You should also list what college/university degrees, technical diplomas, certifications, or courses you’ve completed in your educational section and have a career summary at the beginning of your resume that gives a quick outline of your experience and skills.
For your cover letter what you need to do is list out all the different education, experience, and knowledge requirements for the job you’re applying for and then explain for each one how you meet those requirements. If you happen to have an equivalent experience or education to what they’re looking for list it and explain why it’s an equivalent.
As for whether or not you should take on any unpaid internships that is really a personal choice. Will the internship give you any experience that you feel will be valuable to you later on? If so it might be worthwhile working there for a couple months, but be prepared because many companies will simply try to manipulate and exploit you to get as much free work out of you as possible. Over the last five years many companies have remained profitable by terminating their full-time workers and replacing them with unpaid interns who they disingenuously continue to promise jobs to. It is this practice that is causing there to be so few new well-paying jobs to be created. So if you do decide to go for an unpaid internship try to pick something you’ll enjoy and it’s probably best to only work there no longer than 6 months. If they can’t give you the job they’ve promised by than they probably never are going to. Just make sure when you quit you give a notice of two weeks and simply tell them you’ve found a job elsewhere as there is no sense burning any bridges and you may want to use them as a reference in the future.
Speaking of references one of the most important things you need to do is ask yourself if the people you’ve provided are those you can trust. Nothing can sink a potential job faster than a negative review by one of your references. So if you think you’ve been passing all the job exams and interviews with flying colors it is possible the reason you haven’t been getting the job is because of a bad apple amongst your references. Go through your references and if you think someone has been sabotaging you don’t use them as a reference anymore. Whatever you do don’t bother confronting this reference as there is little point in doing so. They know what they’re doing and are acting unprofessionally. After all, a professional person who didn’t feel comfortable with being a reference for you would simply tell you.
Often the first couple jobs in one’s career path have little to do with what they studied in school so be prepared to take something a little further afield. Just because a job isn’t what you envisioned doesn’t mean it won’t have any value and won’t take you where you ultimately want to go. Things like working in an office environment, teamwork, and processing purchases are universal experiences that are easily transferrable to other industries. So try to be open-minded when choosing a job to apply to. The more jobs you apply to the better the chances you’ll land something.
Lastly, you have to prepare yourself that in order to find work you may have to move to another city, province, state, country or continent. It really has become the sort of economy that requires you to go where the work is. So try to lighten the amount of things you own or make arrangements to have them placed into storage if you can’t afford to move your possessions. There are simply places where the economy has tanked so you need to do what is necessary to give yourself the best odds of moving forward with your life and your career.