There’s the repeated mantra: You have to go to college to get a good job.
Then there are those like Jesse Pinho, who, halfway into his junior year, opted to help launch a startup rather than finish his education.
“An opportunity presented itself for me to be a part of a really promising startup called Mobcart,” Pinho said. “I knew that I could always finish my Wheaton degree later; but the opportunity to build an awesome company from scratch doesn’t come often, so I jumped at the chance.”
Though Pinho still strives to finish his degree – he’s currently attempting to manage an online music class along with his demanding and busy schedule – he doesn’t regret leaving school to pursue his dreams.
“It’s been more than worth it. Working on a startup has catalyzed my personal growth in a way that staying at college never could have,” he said. “Of course, college was a necessary stage in my life as well; but I’m doing things now that I never would have been able to do at Wheaton.”
He had even more success when he jumped ship to Everpurse in August 2012. This product has continued to grow and was even featured on Good Morning America. The success of the product was beyond the plans that Pinho and his colleagues envisioned.
But as far as his education, Pinho wouldn’t go back to change anything.
“I don’t regret a single thing about my decision,” Pinho said. “Even through the parts of the last couple years that have been less than ideal (living off of Ramen soup, for example), I’ve learned and grown a lot.”
As Pinho joins the ranks of college drop outs like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, what about those who finish their degree and don’t have nearly the success of these men?
For Millennials currently seeking any job out of desperation, these stories seem to be anomalies. But they do raise a question worth framing: Why are Millennials underemployed? Why do success stories such as these appear as difficult to reach as the moon?
The Atlantic reported that more than 50 percent of Millennials are either unemployed or underemployed.
According to Forbes, there are a couple of forces contributing to the underemployment of Millennials. First, though many entry-level jobs require its workers to have a bachelor’s degree, many end up taking low-paying jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree — especially in retail — because they stand out more in this pool of people, than in a pool where everyone has a Bachelor’s degree. Ironically, in this economy at least, getting a job that you’re qualified to do is harder than getting a job that you are over qualified to do.
Second, access to social media plays a role as well. In a survey conducted by Cisco, over 50 percent of Millennials “will not accept a job that bans social media.” They would rather take a lower paying job and be able to use social media rather than the high-paying gig.
Third, it really depends on the major that graduates come out with. According to Forbes, there are majors that typically produce well-paying jobs and then there are the top worst majors that produce the least compensation.
The faces behind the numbers
On one end of the spectrum, there are Millennial students who have completed advanced degrees and are now unable to find employment in their chosen field. Rigorous graduate training no longer ensures the high paying legal job students expect after dishing out huge chunks of time and money to their place of learning.
Law students have been hit particularly hard since the economic recession. In the courts today are cases of law students suing their graduate schools because they were unable to fulfill the promise that graduates will find a job. In 2007, over 90 percent of law graduates received jobs after graduation but by 2009, about 65 percent of law students were able to get jobs. As a result, law school applications are set to reach a 30-year low, down by 38 percent since 2010.
Are the graduate schools really reneging on their promise, or is it the outcome of a larger issue? Either way, these Millennials are highly dissatisfied, that, and a college degree can no longer act as a security blanket.
Underemployed on the way to a degree
Kristie Bassett is a 21 year old Millennial working two jobs in order to support her educational goals. She completed an associate’s degree in psychology at the local community college and is now working on earning her LPN. After that, her next goal is to become an RN.
Kristie’s future is hopeful in that RN’s and other healthcare professions are some of the fastest growing jobs. They are also well paying. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics registered nurses is the highest growing job in terms of the new jobs to be generated in the field. The projection is 711,900 new jobs added between 2010-2020.
The median pay in 2010? $64,690 per year.
The problem is reaching the educational level where those job positions open up.
The difficulty for Kristie is that her parents do not have the money to pay for her higher education. Instead, she is forced to work two jobs to support her educational goals. Currently, she works full time at a dollar store and part time at a factory.
“Every day I go to school from 8-3 and then work from 4 to midnight and I have no time for anybody,” she said. “You are stressed, overworked, and underpayed and always exhausted.”
Kristie said if money weren’t an issue she would be attending her dream school, University of North Carolina, and would “focus all my time and effort on my studies. I would not work while going to school,” she said.
Despite the obstacles, Kristie expects to earn her Ph.D., working the entire time to pay it off. “Eventually I want to become a nurse practitioner, a pediatric one,” Kristie said.
That means six more years of school, she explained.
Kristie’s story is representative of the often larger gap between schooling and receiving the dream job. She cannot focus on school full time, but must juggle her life in such a way to make continued schooling possible.
“I can only hope that it will be worth it,” she said. “I know that the paycheck will be worth it, I’m just not sure the job will be as satisfying as I hope.”
The question is, can the problem of underemployment be combated? Or is landing a job just the luck of the draw? Even a college degree is no guarantee of a salary, and often times those degrees are unattainable due to cost.
A recent Forbes article, written by Michael Malone and a silicon valley CEO, Tom Hayes, suggested that for Millennials to get a job, they need to clean up what they already do best.
That is, they need to put their online and social media skills to good use.
“At a time when one’s gifts are just as likely to appear in a YouTube video or pin board as in a resume, the talents of this generation are being overlooked by aging HR directors and recruiters,” the article read. “There’s a reason that the average LinkedIn user is 44 years old – how do you display in a line of bare text your genius at viral marketing?”
Instead, the best idea is to “establish a powerful personal brand independent of work experience.”
Not only should Millennials have relevant internships on their resumes, they also need to leverage their social media channels in such a way that future employers can get a close look and understanding about who they are.
“The best way to combat a thin resume is with photos, video, endorsements,” the article read. “Be unusual and memorable: if, for example, you reached Level 60 on World of Warcraft, tell your future boss why that means you have monster leadership skills. And, show you have a big and growing network that comes with you when you get hired.”
The next suggestion from Silicon Valley was to “never stop learning.” College is one means of gaining knowledge, but the internet has its own storehouses, like online courses.
Read another Millennial Influx article about free online courses here.
The major takeaway is that Millennials need to be more unconventional in their job hunt and resume building. And unconventional is something Millennials are good at. Millennials live in the now and want things now, and so are good at creating on the spot. From Facebook posts to shooting off quick and witty tweets, Millennials need to harness their creative juices and redirect them full force into shaping an online presence that will impress their future employers.
Remember, that’s one thing you have on that business CEO interviewing you, experience in the virtual realm that is still a scary and foreign universe to many older professionals.