With national unemployment rates that have nearly doubled since 2008, students facing a tough job market have been changing post-graduation plans and turning to alternatives instead.
As of October, Americans between the ages of 20 and 24 have yielded a 15.6 percent unemployment rate, 5.4 percent greater than that of the national rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Goizueta Business School senior Philip Li, who is hoping to find a full-time job before graduation, said students feel the pain of rising unemployment rates.
“Graduating seniors who are desperately seeking a job at this point can feel nothing but pressure, stress and helplessness,” he said.
The idea of leaving Emory without a job is something Li said he does not want to think about, but added that he does have back-up plans in mind.
“I suppose graduate school, such as law or business, would not be out of the question,” he said. “Taking a year off to do something on my own might also be an option.”
Taking time off was not an option for fifth-year College senior Kelsey Harper, who chose to stay at Emory for an additional year instead.
The poor economy changed Harper’s employment plans not only last year, but this year as well.
“I’ve had internships at two different museums in Atlanta. Last year, around the economic downturn, I got letters from these museums explaining they were cutting positions and would not be hiring,” she said.
After graduating this year, Harper, an art history and Spanish double major, said that she will not be working but rather has plans to continue on to graduate school.
“I feel like now, in order to get a good job that’s stable, it’s necessary to go to grad school,” she said of the current job market.
In addition, she said that going to graduate school is a way for students to put off finding work, whether they do not want jobs at the time or there are not any available.
Harper noted that her ultimate goal is to work as a curator but is also considering professorship, conservation and appraising.
“Not everybody needs to go to museums,” she admitted, “but they’re always going to need people in these positions.”
Li said that he is seeking to enter the investment banking industry and acknowledged that it is one of the most competitive industries in the business world. Emory students face competition from students at schools such as Harvard University of Pennsylvania and New York University, he said.
“With the economy in shambles and the job market being more competitive than ever, if your résumé does not say Harvard, Wharton or Stern, it’s tough to make it,” Li explained. “To land a solid business job at this stage of the economy would make you part of the elite.”
College senior Sally Adnan argued that in today’s economy, nobody is safe from unemployment. She gave an example of a friend who graduated last year at the top of the class at Harvard Law School, was not able to find a job and is now working at a local Toys “R” Us.
Adnan took the Law School Admission Test this fall and had been planning on going to law school since freshman year but is now opting for graduate school instead.
“I actually started applying to law school,” she said, “but after thinking about it I realized it’s not worth it to spend all that money and not find a job in the end. Looking at the economy and hearing all these stories, law school is just not worth it.”
Instead of studying to become a forensic lawyer, Adnan said that she will be focusing on forensics in graduate school.
“I have a passion for forensics, and it’s such a new field,” Adnan explained. “There’s a demand for it, so I’m going towards the demand.”
College senior Mariam Karamali, an anthropology and biology double major, has deferred her graduate school acceptance to participate in Teach for America (TFA), but not because of the tough job market.
TFA is a nonprofit organization that recruits college graduates to serve as teachers in low-income regions such as the Mississippi Delta and New Orleans to help “eliminate educational inequity,” according to its website.
Students can benefit from working with TFA, Karamali said.
“When you join Teach for America, you join a network as well,” she explained, and said that TFA has alumni throughout the country who are involved in all types of fields.
Everyone, including employers, recognize the organization and participating in the program says a lot about a person, Karamali added.
TFA Recruitment Director Monique Moore said that the number of applicants to the program has been increasing over the past couple of years, but she does not attribute the rise to the current economic status.
“Participating in two-year programs such as Teach for America or the Peace Corps is appealing to Emory students,” Moore explained. “There’s this sense of a call to action before going into a career for the rest of your life.”
Moore said that TFA participants often have other job or school offers.
Not everybody is lucky enough to have options, Adnan said.
“I think everyone is panicking,” Adnan said. “The job market is so bad, everybody wants to go to [graduate] school. We can’t just take a year off anymore; everybody needs to go to school to be safe.”
— Contact Alice Chen