People@Work: College Degree in Hand but No Job, Grads Head Back Home

college graduation
college graduation

A saturated job market is creating headaches for recent college graduates who are finding it difficult to land a job, or at least one that pays well enough so that they can afford to live on their own. For many, that means they're right back where they started -- living at home with their parents.

A new survey of last year's graduating class shows that 80% moved back home after getting their diplomas, up sharply from 63% in 2006. According to the poll of 2,000 respondents, nearly 70% of recent grads didn't have jobs lined up when they graduated. A similar number said they moved back home after graduating until they found a job.

Many recent grads are returning home because they can't find a job or they lost one soon after starting it, says Barry Miller, manager of alumni career programs and services at Pace University in New York. And if moving home isn't difficult enough, he says, many young adults face pressure from parents eager to see the start of a return on their financial investment in a college education.

Some graduates with whom Miller has worked say their parents want their kids "to take anything, rather than really look [for] a job that really matches their academic preparation and interest," he says. Grads need to let their parents know the reality of how difficult it is to find employment in today's job market. Many parents don't realize that the lack of jobs available to young people is unprecedented, Miller says.

"Living at Home Is a Lot Easier"

Julie Lavin, a 2009 graduate of Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., moved back to her parents' Long Island home after she was unable to find a job that pays the kind of salary that would allow her to live on her own. She works as a sales assistant at WPLJ, a New York City radio station, assisting nine account executives who sell advertising.

"It's a great first job out of college. I'm learning a lot and meeting a lot of people. And it's fun," says Lavin, 23, who holds a bachelor's in communications. "But it's not necessarily what I want to do." What's more, though she's gaining work experience, the pay isn't great, which makes living with her parents all the more necessary.

Lavin isn't eager to strike out on her own and have to live paycheck-to-paycheck as do friends who hold similarly paying jobs, she says. "Living at home is a lot easier," she says. As an example, she says that after a long day at work, she comes home to dinner already prepared. Though she doesn't pay rent, Lavin does help out around the house, cooking or doing other household chores, she says.

Still, she says, after getting used to living away from home while attending college, moving back was a "huge adjustment."

Awkward Moments

Alexander Shippee moved back to his parents' suburban Connecticut home after graduating from Marist just a few weeks ago. The English major started work two weeks ago as an unpaid intern at Communication Group, a small Manhattan-based public-relations agency.

Though he isn't paid, the company does pick up commuting and other costs, so his expenses are low. "It's really saving me a lot of money and giving me experience at the same time," says Shippee, 22. He hopes the opportunity will lead to a full-time job, allowing him to move out on his own when his finances are more settled.

Living at home does have its awkward moments, Shippee says, such as when his parents offer to pay him to "watch the dog" while they're out of town for a week. Nevertheless, he says, "they're being very supportive. And I don't think I can really underscore how important that is right now."