Editorial: Response to “For a new generation, an elusive American dream”

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Scott Nicholson graduated in 2008 from Colgate University, a private liberal arts college in New York State.  

Unlike many students in liberal arts programs, Nicholson knew what career he wanted to pursue after he finished his degree.  While he was a student, he won the dean’s award for excellence and sent multiple resumés and cover letters through corporate website hiring pages.

Nicholson still has no job.

In the past five months, Nicholson had only one job prospect: he was offered a position as an associate claims adjuster with a salary of $40,000 a year [approximately $41,844 CAD].  He turned the job down, because “Rather than waste early years in dead-end work, he reasoned, he would hold out for a corporate position that would draw on his college training and put him, as he sees it, on the bottom rungs of a career ladder.

The story continues, explaining how much Nicholson’s parents make (around $182,000 CAD a year), as well as how he is able to survive on a shoe-string budget supplemented by odd jobs and a considerable amount of help from his parents.   Many students aren’t able to take the same liberties and time as Nicholson has to get a job, due to student debt, the cost of living expenses, and their parents’ financial situation.

Although Nicholson is American, there are many echoes between his experience and those of students and other millennial new grads here in Canada.

TalentEgg founder Lauren Friese was at a conference last month that featured a panel of students and new grads.  When asked what their entry-level salary expectations were, some members of the panel said they expected a whopping $70,000, and one individual had expectations well above $100,000.  They claimed that work-life balance wasn’t a priority for them and working 100 hours a week was okay.

There are 168 hours in a week, with 120 hours in a typical work week.   Clearly, these individuals don’t plan on doing a heck of a lot of sleeping, eating, bathing, or using the washroom.  That, or they are Cybertronic’s newest model.  I’m not really sure.

So what am I trying to say here?

For starters, I think Nicholson’s choice to not take the job as an associate claims adjuster was a stupid one.  How do you expect to get more than an entry-level position with no job experience?

I also question what Nicholson has been doing with his time: although he is “an active volunteer firefighter” (which is awesome), what is he doing with the rest of his free time?  Is he just sitting around playing video games? Is he volunteering with other organizations in his community, or is he trying to learn new skills?

In order to get an entry-level position, you need to make yourself stand out from the competition.  I don’t believe Nicholson is doing that at all.

My advice to him (and all other new grads who are looking for work): keep yourself busy and show that you are doing something with the time you have.   It is hard to get a job when there are thousands of other people with the same degrees as you, and you have limited work experience.  If you don’t have any other skills to bring to the table (from volunteering, part-time work, sports teams, service learning or extra-curriculars on campus as well as after graduation), your application will be put to the bottom of the pile.

Most importantly, keep your head up: good things come to those who wait (and work hard for it).

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