The Unemployed Generation

A whole new generation of students is going to college and taking the wrong majors and receiving the wrong type of degrees.

By Darnell Clarke

With the youth unemployment rate in the U.S. reaching a record level at 17 percent, it has been argued that this unemployment rate and poor economic situation has given Generation Y a new name: “The Unemployed Generation.”

These economic difficulties have led to dramatic increases in youth poverty, unemployment, and the numbers of young people living with their parents. Between 2005 and 2012, the proportion of these young adults living in their parents’ home increased, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The percentage of people age 25 to 34 living in the home of their parents rose from 14 percent to 19 percent in 2012.

Everything begins and ends for you, Gen Y, with education. In September 2011, the Census Bureau released a study called Education and Synthetic Work-Life Earnings. It examined the economic value of educational attainment by estimating the amount of money people might earn over the course of a 40-year career given their level of education. It showed that a person with Bachelor’s degree working full time from ages 25 to 65 would have $1 million more in earnings than a similar person with just a high school diploma. In addition to higher earnings, people with higher levels of education are more likely to be employed full-time, year-round, that is, they held a job for the entire year and worked in a full-time capacity.

Here’s What I See

I see a whole new generation of students going to college and taking the wrong majors and receiving the wrong type of degrees. Not only are these young people going after the wrong degrees, they are graduating with an average of $50,000 in student loan debt. This is unacceptable! Because these college grads are not getting the right type of degrees, their salaries are not at the level to sustain paying off their loans; consequently, these students are defaulting on their student loans at a record pace. But this will not happen to you! Let me say this: It does not matter which school you attend as long as it’s accredited. Harvard, Yale, University of Michigan, Stanford, or even Wayne State University (my alma mater)—they are all the same. In today’s marketplace, experience is the name of the game.

As a hiring manager, I would hire a college student with the right type of degree(s) and at least two years of actual work experience in his or her chosen field of study who attended a lower-level university versus a student who went to one of those high-priced, top-level universities with no actual work experience. Therefore, find a school you can afford. Your goal is to graduate with the least amount of student debt as possible.

I was blessed to receive an athletic scholarship and a few government grants that paid for my undergraduate degree; therefore, I had NO loans when I graduated. I was head and shoulders ahead of my friends who were inundated with student loans they had to pay back. So if you have to go to a community college for a couple for years to keep your cost down, then do so. Do whatever it takes to make sure you do not become burdened with long-term debt obligations associated with student loans.

If you want to be successful for now and for the future, you must get into an industry that is expanding and growing. Industries and occupations related to health care, personal care, and social assistance, as well as construction, are projected to have the fastest job growth between 2010 and 2020, according to reports by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Total employment is projected to grow by 14.3 percent over the decade, resulting in 20.5 million new jobs. Despite rapid projected growth, construction is not expected to regain all of the jobs lost during the 2007‐ to 2009 recession.

Here are the top three industries for the future:

  • Health Care
  • Educational Services
  • Food Services and Drinking Places

Do More and Be More to Stand Out

Generation Y, the unemployed generation, currently is experiencing difficulty finding and obtaining employment. You have two generations ahead of you, Generation Xers and the Baby Boomers who are still in the workforce. And neither generation is ready to retire right now. So you have to do more and be more to stand out during your job search.

The Baby Boom generation will move entirely into the 55-years-and-older age group by 2020, increasing the age group’s share of the labor force from 19.5 percent in 2010 to 25.2 percent in 2020. The “prime-age” working group (ages 25 to 54) is projected to drop to 63.7 percent of the 2020 labor force. The 16- to 24-year-old age group is projected to account for 11.2 percent of the labor force in 2020. I’m telling you all this for a reason. You must start now to be prepared for the workforce of tomorrow.

Over the next 10 years, 54.8 million total job openings are expected. While growth will lead to many openings, more than half, 61.6 percent, will come from the need to replace older workers who retire or otherwise permanently leave an occupation. In 4 out of 5 of the fastest growing occupations, openings due to replacement needs will exceed the number due to growth. Replacement needs are expected in every occupation, even in those that are declining. More than two-thirds of all job openings are expected to be in occupations that typically do not need postsecondary education for entry. So get ready, because your future is BRIGHT!

Veteran hiring and employment authority Darnell Clarke is the author of “Employmentology: A Practical Systematic Methodology of Finding Employment by a Hiring Manger.” As a front-line hiring practitioner, Clarke knows what today’s hiring professionals are, and are not, looking for—knowledge he now imparts to the candidate marketplace at all levels from collegiate to executive suites. He may be reached online at


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