“The bachelor’s degree — long a ticket to middle-class comfort — is losing its luster in the U.S. job market,” a recent Bloomberg.com article noted. And the reason? College graduates are starting out at lower salaries than they did eight years ago. The only exception (no surprise): Computers, statistics and mathematics majors.
Here’s a clip: “A biology major at the start of their career earned $31,000 in 2015, down $4,000 from five years earlier.”
Don’t let that kind of statement discourage you: It’s not surprising that starting salaries are lower. Automation and relentless focus on efficiency are driving many businesses to cut or consolidate entry level positions. So expect entry level work to be harder to find and just that: entry level.
The good news for those who land a job and persevere: Salaries for experienced college grads have not taken a hit.
Our advice to college grads: Get a job — either in your field of study or something that interests you — and do not worry too much about the starting wage. We’re seeing that the job market is putting more of a premium on specialization and tenure, so those who are just starting out in their careers may not be rewarded as highly as in the past. This can seem off-putting to us Millennials, who are bombarded with tales of people under 30 become ultra rich (again, mainly in the tech field).
Use Your Network
Since a BA is now expected for most jobs, what distinguishes college grads is the college activities, volunteer work and actual job experience they bring to the position. As Arizona State University professor Jeff Selingo states in the article, “Just getting a degree doesn’t matter anymore … What matters more are the undergraduate experiences that you have.”
So use your network, your experience and other soft skills. And if you’re a good communicator, you’re way ahead. In a 2016 blog post, we cited another study which surveyed what employers find most attractive in new hires. The results are surprising. Communications skills were the most sought after, falling into the category of “Less Common, More Desired.”
Be realistic about the job opportunities in your field of study. If limited, do you want to go straight to graduate school? Perhaps you can get shorter and less expensive training in the skills required to land a first job. If that specialty or unique skill set applies to a lot of different types of work, all the better.
Manage Your Money
Money management is key. Do some research on jobs and what they pay, so your expectations line up with reality. Basic living costs can be overwhelming when just starting out.
This is why we spend a lot of time in our NextGen workshops on the basics: Identifying needs versus wants, setting up a budget, and establishing spending rules for yourself that will allow you to go further on a limited income. As I said in this earlier blog post about spending – Stop rushing! Drop your price point, and roll the cost of what you’re buying into an easy-to-follow budget.
Remember: These are exciting times to be looking for work, as the focus in many sectors is on innovation and new ways to do things. There are many opportunities in the US and abroad. So take a deep breath, tap into the skills and connections that make you unique, lower your expectations if necessary, and then do your best at every job. Money and success will follow.