Diminished Expectations: Lessons from 2010

It turns out this may have been the year in which Americans figured out that college isn’t exactly the golden ticker we once thought it was. According to an article by Victoria Reitano at the Huffington Post:

With the current recession still in effect as we lurch towards 2011, your career choices have become less concrete and more of a fuzzy gray area. Of the many U.S. population segments, young adults between the ages of 20-24 face some of the toughest job prospects coming out of college right now. With an 18.2 percent unemployment rate, diminished wages and benefits, and entry-level positions that have been expanded to include middle management responsibilities (due to corporate downsizing), it’s not exactly shocking to learn that me and many of my classmates are questioning our current career trajectories.

Too many graduates (myself included) have long fed into the notion that your first position out of college will be exactly the right fit and lead you down a logical career progression that ultimately results in your “dream job.” But the reality is, we should be adapting our expectations and looking at our first job (if we can even find one to begin with) as merely a stepping stone that offers up the ability to build valuable skills and capital in the interim.

Yea, or maybe learn some depressing, useless skills and keep just a step ahead of bankruptcy.

College is still “worth it” in the long run (the amount of money one pays to attend college will be returned in terms of additional income over a lifetime) but the increasing cost of college means that the payoff now seems to take a damn long time.

In truth, people in their 20s have realized for quite some time (every May American colleges churn out another 90,000 graduates eager to begin “exciting” careers) that first jobs are often terrible. But at least these jobs used to be professional ones with, you know, health care.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer