The Senior Series: Wrestling With Discouragement

There are a lot of articles floating around arguing that Gen-Y is emotionally resilient. Despite the worst job market of our lifetimes, we are optimistic and upbeat about our economic futures. Some college seniors are looking forward to “funemployment” this summer. Others have found the perfect excuse to extend their college experience for a few more years. But don’t read to deeply into these claims, because there are still plenty of college seniors who want to hit the ground running this summer and are having a hell of a hard time.

When I took principals of microeconomics early in my college career, the class had a few discussions about unemployment and the means by which the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the unemployment rate. In order to be counted as unemployed, a person must be out of work and actively looking for a job. Otherwise, they are merely a “discouraged worker”. I used to wonder how someone became discouraged. After all, if you’re unemployed, what else do you have to do besides dedicate your time to finding work?

With two months left until graduation and a job-search that has yet to yield a single offer, I can now admit that I fully understand how discouraged job-seekers must feel.

Gen-Y isn’t immune. We are constantly being reminded that “there aren’t any jobs out there” and “you’re competing for entry-level positions with experienced professionals now, not just other students.” When we started our college careers, nearly everyone told us that as long as we worked hard, got good grades, and put an internship or two under our belt, we’d be set. The new reality is that you can have awesome grades, a half-dozen internships on a resume, and struggle to land even an interview for an entry-level role you believe would be a great fit.

That’s not to say that there aren’t jobs or that there won’t be success stories; but it does mean there will be moments of discouragement, even among the most upbeat of the bunch. I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of, but it’s not something we need to deny, either.

Rob Pitingolo

Rob Pitingolo is a college senior at John Carroll University finishing his degree in economics. He is the author of the blog Extraordinary Observations, a journal of politics and urbanism written from a Gen-Y perspective.