Posted by: Lindsey Gerdes on July 07
The Sunday Styles section of the New York Times had an articletitled “Say Hello to Underachieving” about the many undergrads and recent grads who are unable to get an internship or entry-level position this summer and are sitting around the house or are instead, gasp, taking part-time, rather unglamorous positions.
The article brings up some very salient points about the challenges, and frustrations, of looking for work in a really tough economy (for instance, the difficulties of moving back in with the parents if you can’t find a job. Trust me, I know about that one from experience.)
I do want to stress that those students who have found other sources of income, like Erin McAuliffe, a Bowdoin student featured in the article who is working in an amusement park this summer, have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. As a matter of fact, they might even have an advantage over many peers, including those who found more “acceptable” white-collar internships that are unpaid and include a lot of coffee carrying.
I recently wrote about the lack of internships out there and suggested other options, stressing that there's absolutely nothing wrong with flipping hamburgers, working retail, or lifeguarding for a summer if that golden internship opportunity doesn't pan out (or doesn't pay and you can't afford not to work.)
First of all, in many instances you can learn extremely valuable pointers about customer service by working in a service industry--not to mention get a whole new appreciation of how challenging this work can be. I worked retail one summer, saved some money, and learned a lot; it wasn't great--the store manager was pretty awful and it was very depressing to work in a "hip" clothing store that didn't even make garments to fit a size 10 woman--but it was a valuable experience, and to be honest, I probably could have used more of them before starting in my chosen field. It toughened me up and forced me to learn how to deal with all different personality types--as well as demanding customers.
The NYT, however, notes the permanent damage getting off to a slow start can do to a career:
There may be reason for concern. Students who enter the job market during a recession can see their wages lag behind comparable students who graduated in better times for as long as 15 years, according to a recent study by Lisa B. Kahn, an economist at the Yale School of Management.
But I can say this. I too graduated into a downturn in 2003 and many of us didn't come out with jobs. (As a matter of fact, we wore placards spelling out U-N-E-M-P-L-O-Y-E-D to our school's annual "wacky walk" tradition before commencement.)
Two of my friends, for instance, both with Stanford degrees and impressive GPAs, couldn't find work and temporarily settled for part-time positions at Anthropologie instead. And I can honestly tell you five years later that both of them are doing great and this less-than-traditional start to their careers didn't hold them back in the slightest.
They got some good experience instead of sitting on their hands--and even had a Hilary Duff sighting in the process. So all hope is not lost, Class of 2009. Just try not to sit around watching the 'tube if you can help it.