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Youth Unemployment: Not Just an Annoyance For Recent Grads

by Cathryn Sloane | University of Iowa

F Posted in: Election 2012, News and Politics, Voices P Posted on: July 3, 2012
Cathryn Sloane Cathryn Sloane

Although most of the country’s focus of late has been on healthcare and The Supreme Court, general economic woes, and other controversies, the potential rise of student loan rates was the big item stressing out America’s youth.  With that issue resolved for now, students can spend our time worrying about the many other problems affecting us that desperately need to be resolved – one of the biggest being unemployment after graduation.  If the presidential campaigns truly want to sway young voters, giving sincere attention to youth unemployment is the way to do it.

I say this not simply because I’m a jobless college graduate and I’m unhappy about it.  I, along with the millions of other recent grads in this situation, have spent enough time whining. Do I wish I was writing this from my own apartment after a productive day at my 9-5 job rather than sitting in my room at home with my restaurant uniform lying on the chair next to me?  Absolutely.  Is this issue significant outside of our impatience to start our real, adult lives?  Yes.  Students everywhere aren’t being enabled to exercise the skills they spent years in school studying and developing, and that is something that is hurtful to this economy.

It is said that children are the future, young people are the future, we are the future.  But the longer our future is put off, the farther away the future is for everyone, and the longer we’ll have to wait for significant change.  The government can’t single-handedly shift economic direction; our actions are a huge part of what happens. President Obama, Mitt Romney, and other politicians have stressed the importance of an education- but what about the importance of using that education once it is completed?

Youth unemployment is making us utterly desperate, and forcing us to take jobs where our skills are not utilized.  Interestingly enough, it would seem I have overlooked how lucky I actually am to have my part-time job waitressing, as I have learned from recent studies and general observations of my peers that finding even part-time work has become increasingly difficult.  I personally know students and post-grads who are ecstatic to have been hired as baristas or cashiers.

Some young people are deciding they see more promising futures in their retail or restaurant jobs, as they could get promoted within those companies with dedication and time.  And who can blame them?  Those companies are giving students a spot and a chance while others are not.  It’s all we can ask for right now, for any opportunity to make money to pay back the loans we took out for schooling – schooling that, ironically, was supposed to lead to secure, full-time jobs.

Even within the “real job” search, most of the positions I find are either roles I am dangerously under-qualified for or extremely over-qualified for.  It is like a treasure hunt and I only occasionally strike gold – gold being a job where all the skills I gained from my time in school can be adequately applied and utilized.  Of course, I would be absolutely thrilled to take any of these jobs.  But what does it mean for our country that the generation with the greatest ability to make an impact is taking any jobs we can find rather than being offered jobs where we can truly use the skills we’ve been trained in?

I don’t let this discourage me too much, however; getting a job where I can use at least some of my skills is a good step in the direction of my “making a difference” path.  It is no secret that people almost never permanently stick with their first jobs, anyways.

But this blank period of time that millions of us are experiencing between college and our first real jobs is not only frustrating, but detrimental to our society.  Youth unemployment needs determined attention and help from our political leaders, not just resentment from students and somber commentary from adults.  We can’t be stifled for too much longer or things will only continue to stray along this unsatisfying road.

Cathryn Sloane Cathryn Sloane Cathryn Sloane is a '12 graduate from The University of Iowa with a B.A. in English and a concentration in Creative Nonfiction Writing. She hails from St. Louis, Missouri and has also written for USA TODAY College.

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