After four years of drudgery, many graduates eagerly anticipate the swells of the “Pomp and Circumstance Marches” as they finish up finals and projects.
However, the reality for many college graduates is less than exciting. According to a report from The Huffington Post, one in two college graduates are jobless, with many taking low-skill work to make ends meet. This trend is particularly high for arts and humanities graduates.
The story is no different for Dixie State University graduates. Kiera Durfee, who finished her coursework in fall 2012, said she has struggled adjusting to the realities of life post-degree as she returned to caring for her two children and supporting her family. Her husband is still in school, so finding a job became imperative for Durfee.
“For a little while, I felt lost without school,” she said. “Now I’m handling it better, but I stared at the floor for a few days.”
A graduate of the English program, Durfee now works as an office manager at a local elementary school. She said it was a difficult realization that her degree, and the skills she spent a good two years cultivating, seem a little useless.
“The ability to communicate is a talent needed by all, so I was able to find a job that helps to bridge gaps in communication,” she said. “But, knowing how to spell is pretty much worthless, I’ve found.”
Amanda Jacobs, who graduated in spring 2012, said the hardest part for her has been landing a job in a work force that pits her against people with years of experience. Jacobs moved to Phoenix with the hopes that a larger city meant more jobs, but it also meant more competition.
“I took a job at a bail bondsman’s office because I had to,” she said. “It’s the last place I thought I would be a year after graduation.”
Alexis Rich, a senior dental hygiene major from St. George, said she returned to school in search of a more practical degree after her major in public relations from Utah Valley University failed to pan out.
“I thought I would easily find a job, make great money, be able to get a place of my own, and none of that has happened,” she said. “I’ve been competing for employment with people who have lost their jobs (and) who have years of experience.”
Steve Bringhurst, the executive director of the Career Center, said graduating seniors too often mistake jobs for careers.
“There’s a disconnect between getting a job and having a career,” Bringhurst said. “Students think, ‘I can find a job when I graduate,’ and there’s a disconnect there, too.”
Bringhurst said competition in the job field has intensified, and those with experience would naturally have a leg-up.
“Out there in the job market, there are going to be a lot of people with degrees,” he said. “It’ll be the people with the experience and internships who are going to get the jobs. It’s not going to be, ‘Oh, I’ve got my degree and I’ll get a job after that.”
Jacobs, who was active in school as an Ambassador and writer for Dixie Sun News, said she feels her college experiences don’t mean much in the real world.
“I’ve found it’s hard to land jobs without actual, specific experience,” Jacobs said. “Even collegiate activities and that type of experience don’t count for much in the real world.”
Jacobs said she recommended students gain experience through job shadowing and internships as a way to boost resumes.
Another unexpected effect of graduation is a decline of graduates’ social lives. Jacobs and Durfee both experienced this effect and said it was easier to make friends during college than in the real world.
“I have found it’s a lot harder to make friends and meet new people,” Jacobs said. “In school, there are literally hundreds of people in your same age group that you can strike up conversations with.”
Durfee said she misses the academic conversation with friends that staying home with her young children and working in an elementary school fail to provide.
“I miss school,” she said. “I love academic discussions…Now I think about paying bills and finding happiness in what I do.”
Durfee said her future goals included finding something to do that both mattered to her and made a difference to others. As for Jacobs, she continues working on her writing skills with the hope something will come up through her perseverance.
“Even though it’s tough facing rejection in job interviews, you can’t stop trying,” she said. “I know that someday I will be given the opportunity to find a job that I’m passionate about. Nothing is instantaneous. With a lot of hard work and dedication, I think anyone can make things happen for themselves.”