Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Letter to One of My Top Urban Studies Grads Who Cannot Find A Job


If somewhat as talented as you are cannot find work, the job situation is truly grim. None of my best Urban Studies grads this year have found jobs with non profits, government agencies, or community based organizations. They are having to piece together income from temporary work of all kinds ranging from babysitting to waiting tables to home and car repair to event photography. As for living arrangements, they are all moving back home, or living with friends and learning to budget every dollar carefully.

Frankly, I see no light at the end of this particular tunnel. I just learned from one of my friends, a law professor, that her neice's husband, who was 15th in his class in at a top law school cannot get hired as a lawyer in any capacity, much less in his specialty, environmental law. And because he has a two year old daughter and a wife who is ill, he is going to have to move in with my friends brother or their parents. Statistics bear this out. This year, only 15% of University of Connecticut law school graduates have been able to find jobs. Two years ago, the percentage was over 80% at this time of year!!

As for words of wisdom, I give you the following, though I do so with some trepidation.

1. Since the economy is not going to revive any time soon, make an inventory of all skills you have and use them to find ways of bringing in income. If you are skilled with computers, speak another language fluently, are good at repairing things, can teach or coach a sport, can clean houses or help people organize their files, use those things to find temporary work. Piecing together income from many sources is the key to survival when you cannot find a single job capable of paying your bills

2. Budget yourself as though you are living in a Depression, watch every dollar, and do not buy anything you don't absolutely need. When there is no prospect of economic revival, you have to reject twenty years of consumer socialization and learn to "live lean."

3. Move in with relatives or create communal living arrangements with friends that allow you to share rent, food, electric bills and any other expenses you have.

4. Analyze what are likely to be growth areas in the economy and see if you can position yourself to find full time or part time work in that area. Health care is one such area; drug rehabilition and work with former prisoners is another. Over the next five years, many states are going to have to release non violent offenders because they cannot afford to keep them in jail. There will probably by jobs opening up working with that population. There may also be jobs in various environmental projects supported with stimulous money. If you have construction or repair skills, look in to using them in environmental conversion work.

5. Stay in regular touch with anyone you know who might have knowledge of work opportunities-eg professors, neighbors, former employers- and keep updating your resume to allow for maximum flexibility in enterinng the job market. Also, print up business cards which highlight your most marketable skills, even if they are in areas which have nothing to do with your university training ( e.g. child care, house and office cleaning, computer repair)

6. Join social justice organizations in your area fighting for jobs for the unemployed, or occupying abandoned properties for those who need housing. Remember, their are millions, if not tens of millions of people in this country in the same position that you are in and if you are organize together to fight for what you need, you are more likely to get it than by simply pursuing individual mobility strategies. There is no contradiction between trying to help yourself find work and housing and fighting to make sure that everyone has access to decent housing and decent work.

Anyway, that's about the best I can come up with. Good luck and don't hesitate to stop by the office to talk and join me for lunch, which will be on me!

The least I can do is give all my unemployed grads a free meal The food is probably worth more than my advice

Best Dr N