But for us college seniors suddenly facing the terrifying prospect of graduation, life isn’t so peachy. After graduation, many of us seniors don’t know exactly what to do with our lives, though we know that we have to do something. Sitting on the couch watching re-runs of The Office isn’t an option, especially after spending tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars for an education.
In years past, seniors usually applied for a bunch of jobs that seemed either practical or interesting and then accepted the best offer. Many fell into their first jobs. But falling gave them direction. That first job opened opportunities, created networks, and provided insights into what kind of work they really wanted to do or didn’t want to do for the rest of their lives.
Now, however, college graduates are falling aimlessly without any job prospects to direct them. We don’t know what we want to do, and there aren’t many opportunities to help us figure it out. Yes, there are some job prospects, but most of them are unskilled or in the technological or engineering fields. When I perused Stanford’s career website, I found listings for software engineers, application engineers, hospital clerks, and knitting specialists. But what are social science and humanities majors to do?
Many are turning to jobs in AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps as fall-backs. This year, Teach for America and Peace Corps experienced respectively a 42 percent and 16 percent increase in applications. In the past four months, AmeriCorps has seen a record increase of 400 percent. But the increased competition for a limited number of positions means that even qualified applicants are getting rejected from organizations that were once begging for them. I know students at Stanford with near 4.00 GPAs who were rejected by Teach for America.
Not to fear, however. The US government is coming to the rescue. President Obama has proposed a $241 million increase for AmeriCorps. On Wednesday, the House passed a bill that would expand AmeriCorps from 75,000 to 250,000 volunteers and create a new service corps to work in low-income communities. No wonder young people adore Obama. You have to love the hand that feeds you.
It’s now becoming clear how Obama plans to save or create 2.5 million jobs. They’re going to be government jobs; paid for and created by the government. From AmeriCorps volunteers to healthcare regulators, many of us are going to end up on the government’s payroll. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008 government jobs increased by nearly 150,000 while the private sector lost about 3.65 million jobs. In January and February, the government added another 40,000 jobs. To accomplish the goals in Obama’s budget, Heritage Foundation estimates that the government would need to add 450,000 new jobs.
Though we young people may have once turned up our noses at government jobs, we can’t any longer. They are some of the most secure jobs out there. Both my 24 year old sister and dad work for the government. Their jobs are comfortable and flexible. They have great benefits. As my sister noted, why work sixty hours a week in a high-stress job when you can work forty hours a week in a comfortable, well-paying government sinecure?
Government jobs are becoming more attractive and abundant (at least outside of California), particularly to the young and unemployed. Perhaps the only thing scarier than the current job market is a job market dominated by government jobs.