From College Graduation to Coffeehouse Counter

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In this article, obtained through Seed.com, AOL's freelance network, Andie Francese explores the world of underemployment as experienced by recent college graduates.

Every year thousands of graduates leave the hallowed halls of universities with high hopes and dreams of landing the perfect job. They put in their time, they pay their dues and they battle through research papers and final exams while still finding time for beer pong and social gatherings. Sadly, many of those graduates find that their dream jobs just don't exist. Searching for that $90k a year job is like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

John, who attended a well-respected state school, found himself with a degree in business and nowhere to use it when he graduated in 2008. "People just were not hiring", he stated, "and those that were simply were looking for experience. My degree and internships just didn't seem like enough to draw an employer in." John, like many other graduates, found himself in the predicament of being underemployed, considering the time and money he spent on a college education. He looked for months for the right job and even began looking outside his business field. "I just applied for everything I possibly could that required a college degree," he told me over a latte. When his six-month grace period on his student loans matured, he took the first job he could find: working in a coffeehouse for near minimum wage.

John's story is pretty typical for today's graduates. While some find great-paying jobs in their field of study, many more are left out in the cold and search tirelessly for even the most basic of office jobs. Thousands of college students even find themselves returning to jobs they held prior to going away to college or finishing school. Dena, a college graduate with a degree in history, returned to the same medical practice she worked for during her final years of college. The job required no real degree and while she insists the money is "fine for now," it's far from her field of study and far from the dream job she hoped to land in a museum.

The economy is a big part of the problem and changing industries are not helping the matter much. Graduating with a degree in media studies, I've seen many of my classmates fall to the wayside. The changing and struggling media industry has not lent itself well to job openings and is far from forgiving for those searching in the pool. Newspapers are cutting back on their staff, magazines are struggling with sales, and other outlets are looking for ways to work around hiring new staff. When you search the local job listings in the media sector, internships are far more common than paying jobs.

Where does that leave those looking for work? It leaves them with the option of retail and being underemployed. Stores, coffee shops and restaurants are packed to the brim with college graduates and formerly employed individuals who are simply trying to get by, waiting for the economy to turn around.
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