By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – Sporting his trademark blue-and-gold bow tie, Anthony Golding is getting ready for his second year as an eighth-grade history teacher at Tupelo Middle School.
A May 2013 graduate of Mississippi State University’s College of Education, Golding contemplated going back to school before securing a job at the end of June last year.
“It was difficult waiting. … it was stressful,” he said.
He’s not alone.
The past five graduating classes from across the country – all following the Great Recession, the longest and deepest economic pullback since the Great Depression – have found a tough job market.
A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute showed 11 percent of college graduates age 21-24 are unemployed, 28 percent have gone back to school, while the rest – 61 percent – have jobs.
Ethan Booker graduated from the University of Mississippi in May, with a political science degree and a minor in broadcast journalism.
With his diploma in hand and two years of experience working on Rebel Radio, he was sure a job in the radio industry would be easy to find.
That hasn’t been the case.
“To me, it’s important not to find a job and make money in something that’s not fun; I really want to do something I love,” he said.
He’s knocked on doors, interviewed with station managers, applied across the country – all the things you need to do during a job hunt.
“I even applied for a job in Fargo, North Dakota,” he said. “I’ve looked at Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Miss for maybe recruiting. … I’ve applied with everyone I know, but still no luck.”
Booker, like other recent college graduates have discovered, may have to get a job that’s not in his field and/or pays less.
The EPI study found that graduates who are employed also are making less money than their counterparts prior to the recession.
The recent college grads age 21-24 are making $16.99 an hour on average, 8 percent lower than what they were making in 2007.
High school graduates age 17-20 are faring worse, making an average around $9.82 per hour, 11 percent lower than they earned in 2000.
For Booker, his apartment lease in Oxford is ending soon, and if he doesn’t get a job in the area, he’ll be leaving for graduate school in Orlando in a few weeks.
“One thing I have learned through all this from employers is that while it’s nice you have a degree, they really want experience,” he said.
It’s a catch-22 then: To get experience, you have to get a job; but often, to get a job, you have to have experience.
For new graduates like Booker, it’s a frustrating situation.
Courtney Sims and Kagan Doom, however, do have the jobs they wanted.
More or less.
Both graduated from Mississippi State University with Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees, majoring in graphic design. Sims graduated in December, while Doom graduated in May.
Sims was on the job hunt for exactly a month when she was interviewed and offered a position on the spot. Doom was interviewed and hired within a week after graduating.
(Full disclosure: both are employed as graphic designers by the advertising department of the Daily Journal).
“I really want to work for an ad agency,” Sims, “but I also know I have to gain experience.”
Doom also wanted to land a job related to his major, and like Sims, is getting to put his skills to use in some degree.
“There are deadlines, there are changes, there’s some with color, some black and white. … even though the software’s different, you’re getting to apply what you learned,” he said.
Golding, Booker, Sims and Doom all have classmates who still are looking for jobs or have returned to school because the job market hasn’t been what they anticipated.
Booker, for example, has a friend who graduated with a degree in accounting, but was job hunting for a year. On the brink of pursuing an MBA, he recently was hired by a firm in Jackson, although it’s not exactly what he had wanted.
“Your degree is one thing; what you do is something else,” Booker said.
Indeed, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York earlier this year found that about 44 percent of recent graduates, ages 22 to 27 with a Bachelor of Arts degree or higher, were in a job that did not technically demand a bachelor’s degree.
Not so for Golding. While he’s about to start his second year at TMS, he’s also gone back to school, pursuing his master’s degree.
“I really like what I’m doing – I knew I wanted to teach, and I get to do that,” he said.
The master’s degree will open opportunities in the future for Golding – perhaps a coveted administrator’s job.
But Golding isn’t jumping ahead just yet.
“I’ve been thinking a lot of what I’ll be doing in the future, but right now, I really enjoy being in the classroom and working with kids. I’m not sure if I want to give that up,” he said. “But at some time, I might want to take on that challenge.”