1 in 10 Young College Graduates is ‘Idled’—What Parents Need to Know and Tips to Help
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1 in 10 Young College Graduates is ‘Idled’—What Parents Need to Know and Tips to Help

Last night a parent friend called me and talked about her older son moving home, and having a hard time finding work. After working hard on a degree in BioEngineering, he realized his true love was in the theater arts, but he also knew he needed to find work to support himself. So, for now, he’s just “in between” so to speak.

This week reporter Kamaron McNair of CNBC details this very common scenario. It’s even got a name now. Many students are now in “idle mode”.

In the article (https://www.cnbc.com/2024/05/17/1-in-10-young-college-graduates-is-idled-it-could-affect-their-earnings-long-term.html), it was highlighted that 1 in 10 recent college graduates are “idling” as of March 2024.

These graduates, aged 21 to 24, are neither employed nor enrolled in further education. Despite the class of 2020 facing an unprecedented economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some have managed to fare well in their careers.

Over 65% of recent college graduates are employed and not pursuing further education, surpassing the pre-pandemic level of 64.3% in February 2020. However, the economic conditions during their entry into the labor market significantly impact their long-term earnings and career trajectory.

Graduating during an economic downturn can have lasting effects on a graduate’s career. In the article, Hannes Schwandt, an associate professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University, highlights that companies often reduce hiring during recessions, which disproportionately affects new entrants to the labor market.

Schwandt’s research shows that income losses can persist, with the most capable graduates taking up to 15 years to fully catch up. For example, those who graduated during periods of high unemployment from 1976 to 2015 saw significant earnings impacts for a decade.

Graduates entering a robust job market tend to secure higher-quality jobs, which set the stage for better career growth and earnings. Conversely, starting in a weaker job market often means settling for lower-quality positions, which can hinder career progression and long-term earning potential. The steady increase in college graduation rates, about 1% annually over the last decade, means a larger pool of degree holders competing for jobs, diluting the advantage a degree once provided.

Parents Stepping In?

What can we do? As parents, you may feel like stepping in and helping your child get in the door. We can play an important role in guiding them. Here are some practical tips:

1. Encourage Skill Development:
– Online Courses and Certifications: Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning offer courses that can enhance employability. Encourage your child to take courses in areas of their interest to build expertise and stand out in the job market.
– Invest in Areas of Interest: Help your child identify and invest time in becoming an expert in a specific area. This focused expertise can make them more attractive to potential employers.

2. Promote Networking:
– LinkedIn Mastery: Teach your child how to create a compelling LinkedIn profile, highlighting their skills, experiences, and aspirations. Encourage them to connect with alumni, industry professionals, and join relevant groups to expand their network.
– Engage with Industry Experts: Encourage participation in webinars, workshops, and conferences related to their field of interest. This can provide valuable insights and connections.
– Virtual and Live Events: Suggest attending both virtual and live events within their industry. These events can offer networking opportunities and the latest industry knowledge.
– Active Social Media Engagement: Advise your child to write regular posts on social media sites displaying their knowledge and interests. Engaging with experts and relevant brands can help establish their presence in the field.

3. Consider Part-Time Jobs and Internships:
– Gain Experience: Even part-time jobs or internships can provide crucial experience and networking opportunities. These roles can also serve as stepping stones to full-time employment.
– Freelance and Volunteer Work: Suggest taking on freelance projects or volunteering in their field. This not only builds their resume but also shows potential employers their initiative and dedication.

4. Support Mental Health:
– Therapy and Counseling: Services can help manage the stress and anxiety of job hunting.
– Healthy Lifestyle: Encourage regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep.

5. Financial Guidance:
– Budgeting: Teach the importance of budgeting and managing student loan repayments.
– Savings: Encourage saving a portion of any income, even if it’s from part-time or freelance work.

Protecting Private Data
In the digital age, protecting personal information is critical, especially for job-seeking graduates. Here are some steps to ensure their data remains secure:

1. Secure Passwords: Use strong, unique passwords for job portals and email accounts.
2. Beware of Phishing Scams: Be cautious of unsolicited job offers or requests for personal information.
3. Privacy Settings: Adjust social media privacy settings to control what potential employers can see.

While the economic conditions for the class of 2020 were less than ideal, there are strategies that parents can use to help their children navigate the job market. By encouraging skill development, promoting networking, supporting mental health, and ensuring financial and data security, parents can provide a strong foundation for their children to overcome the challenges of entering the workforce during a downturn.

By staying proactive and informed, parents can help their children not only survive but thrive in their early careers, despite the economic obstacles they may face.

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