It’s really a shame that Harold Camping, who predicted the rapture would come on May 21, was wrong. My problem would have been solved whether or not I got raptured. Either I would have ascended to the Kingdom of Heaven, or (a far more likely scenario) I would have stayed behind in a post-apocalyptic wasteland inhabited solely by sinners who proved unworthy of ascension.
Actually, come to think of it, it’s entirely possible that the rapture did happen, and only three or four people were pious enough to actually be saved, so no one noticed. But I digress.
In any case, the rapture did not come on May 21 to solve my dilemma, which is this: I have no idea what to do with myself.
I graduated this semester, you see, leaving me with too much free time and too few ideas about how to spend it.
I should, I realize, start looking for a job. But with the national unemployment rate still hovering at close to 10 percent, and New Mexico’s unemployment rate at a better-but-still-dismal 7.6 percent (source: U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics: www.bls.gov) the prospect of even looking for a job fills me with irrational terror. McDonalds’ recent “Hiring Day” event didn’t do much to assuage my fears.
Making matters worse is the fact that my degree is in journalism. Print journalism. Given the state of the newspaper industry, this is kind of like having a degree as a dirigible pilot.
Aside from professors in the C&J department, I only know one guy who has a degree in print journalism. He graduated from UNM ten years ago, and he now works as a (drumroll…) firefighter.
He told me he tried to work as a journalist for a few years after graduation, and was never once certain he’d be able to make the next month’s rent. As a firefighter, he’s not going to get rich, but he told me it was an immediate and dramatic improvement in financial security versus working as a journalist.
So if my first career choice doesn’t work out, I can always run into burning buildings for a living, I suppose.
Adding to the cheerful news is a recent spate of blogs and magazines, including the Daily Beast, the Huffington Post, and COED Magazine (whatever that is) that listed journalism as the number 1 most-useless degree. Maybe I shouldn’t have skipped that McDonald’s hiring day, after all.
I’m in a better situation than most, actually, because I have enough money saved up to last me through the summer, at least.
But the constant pressure from my friends, my girlfriend and my parents to find a job is enough to ruin any expectation of a relaxed summer.
It would almost be easier to just get a job, except that my summer plans make this more-or-less impossible. I have a few family obligations coming up in June, and then I plan to travel in Mexico from the beginning of July until my depleting bank account forces me to stop.
So tell me, dear reader, what job could I apply to in these conditions? Who would say, “We’d love to hire you! You can work two weeks in June and then start again in August, or September, or whenever you feel like it!”
Actually, as a journalist, there are a lot of jobs like this. You simply work as a freelancer, and get paid by the article, with no commitment (or guarantee) that you’ll write another article next week. Of course, working as an entry-level freelancer in a small market (like Albuquerque) pays between 20-50 dollars a week, which would barely pay my rent if I was living in a cardboard box in an alleyway.
These post-graduation woes don’t apply only to journalism majors. In addition to the horrifying national unemployment rate, it’s quite possible that college degrees in general aren’t worth as much as they used to be.
This theory has been making the rounds in economist’s circles as of late, and was propounded in recent articles by The Economist and New York Magazine.
The theory goes like this: every year, there’s a higher percentage of Americans who have at least a Bachelor’s degree.
Following the rules of supply-and-demand economics, a greater supply of educated people means being educated is worth less.
Intensifying the problem, higher student numbers means more student per class, which leads to a drop in the level of education. More and more schools are run like factories, churning out students with no concern for the actual level of education they get, as long as they pay for the privilege of receiving a degree at the end.
There’s also the fact that this year, for the first time ever, Americans owe more money overall in student loan debt than in credit card debt. Add this all up and it begins to look rather bleak, indeed.
It’s sad to think that, a few short months ago, I was ecstatic with the prospect of finally graduating. I’ve spent my entire life, literally for as long as I remember, going to school. It’s been my main (and often sole) occupation since I was four years old. I was so excited to finally graduate and break the routine that I had to restrain myself, on a daily basis, from running naked in the street and screaming with joy.
But somewhere between reading all those depressing articles about the worthlessness of college degrees and realizing that my parents weren’t going to pay my rent anymore once I graduated, my enthusiasm waned and was replaced by a general sort of uneasiness about the future.
Which leads me to my advice for my dear readers: don’t graduate.
Just don’t do it. As long as you’re going to school, you won’t have to pay back your loans, and if you’re lucky enough to have parents that support you, they will stop doing that once you graduate.
If you’re on a five-year graduation plan, make it an eight-year plan. And then try to squeeze a few extra years out of it. Change majors to radically different things with little overlap in required courses — for example, you could go from studying engineering to nutrition to theology. That ought to get you a good 12 years, at least.
If only someone had given me this advice years ago, I could be sleeping my summer away on my parents’ dime. Instead, I’m off to update my résumé to reflect the fact that I wrote this column.