Phi Beta Cons

Is Underemployment That Bad?

It’s hard to go more than a few days without reading an article containing data on underemployed college graduates (case in point: the 5/4 and 5/7 WSJ). While I understand the function of the under-employment variable in macroeconomic analyses, I don’t understand the preoccupation with it on the micro level beyond sympathizing with the frustration.

Why is a 23-year-old college graduate working as a barista considered such a bad thing? What type of position is an educated person with no job experience qualified for? There was a time when a career commenced with workers starting at the bottom. Apparently today, starting at the bottom is the freshman year of college.

My first few jobs after completing my undergraduate degree were jobs that required a management information systems major – consultant/analyst positions at Fortune 500 companies. But, was I really qualified for those positions? My entitled mentality contributed to a poor work ethic that made me expendable when it was time to cut positions. I finally matured when I was “underemployed” as a personal trainer at a fraction of what my corporate jobs paid because I wasn’t hiding behind a degree. If I didn’t experience underemployment, I may have lived in a tent at Zuccotti Park.

This past weekend, University of Evansville President Thomas A. Kazee amazingly did not just tell graduating students “to be everything you’ve dreamed of being.” He actually said:

Move away from home and get job as soon as possible; your parents love you, but enough is enough.

Seeking employment (any employment) after college is a sign of growing up; able young adults holding out for a high-paying job while living at home is a sign of delusion and immaturity. 

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