single post

Degree? Check.



Enthusiasm? Check. Job? Not So Fast.

He pulled the maroon robes over his shoulders and straightened his cap, his body tingling with that nothing-can-kill-this-day kind of vibe. Then he heard his mother calling his name--Jelani! Jelani!--and suddenly he was standing, then shouting, then high-fiving his fellow college graduates. “On top of the world,” said Jelani Thomas, 23, describing how he felt during the graduation ceremony at Brooklyn College, one of the biggest moments of his young life. But even amid the inspiring speeches and all the talk of great careers to come, he couldn’t help but worry. He tried to brush his concerns aside. A friend brought them rushing right back. “So what’s next for you?” she asked. What’s next for a young man brimming with confidence and a bachelor’s degree in business management and finance? What’s next for a child of Trinidadian immigrants who dreams of making it big in the big city? What’s next for a City University graduate stepping out into a decidedly depressing job market? The truth was that Mr. Thomas didn’t know. A week and a half after the ceremony, he still doesn’t know. “People have it in their heads that you’re this bright star, and you want to be that,” said Mr. Thomas, who has been working part-time on campus while he searches for a full-time job. He is the first in his immediate family with a bachelor’s degree, which he received in December, and the graduation ceremony last month was the capstone of his academic career. “It didn’t feel good that I didn’t have a specific answer.” The college graduation season has mostly come and gone. The robes and tassels have been packed away, the diplomas boxed or framed, the party banners taken down. And on the minds of young men and women from Brooklyn College and beyond is that agonizing question: What’s next? You may have heard that a college degree is what you need to thrive during this slow-moving economic recovery. Well, it is and it isn’t. Unemployment levels are certainly lower for graduates than for others. But the past decade has not been kind to young people venturing into the working world, even those with newly minted degrees. Between 2000 and 2012, the job market was so challenging for recent graduates that growing numbers were forced to take jobs that didn’t require bachelor’s degrees, including low-wage and part-time jobs, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported this year. By 2012, about 44 percent were underemployed. Graduates starting out in such a weak labor market may experience longstanding negative effects on their wages, the bank warned, in yet another example of how the economic upheaval of the past decade is still rippling through so many lives. Talk to Shani Abrahams, Brooklyn College’s top graduate this year, and she’ll tell you what young people are facing. She has a business management degree, a 3.7 grade point average and two internships under her belt. What she doesn’t have is a full-time job. Instead, she has a summer internship at a New York City agency that pays $8.13 an hour, 13 cents above minimum wage. After that, she’ll start a yearlong internship at a state agency that will pay $40,000. In this job market, Ms. Abrahams considers herself pretty lucky. Mr. Thomas, who lives with his parents in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, is hoping for something better than that kind of luck. He dreams of running his own business someday--he already has a vision for his own clothing line--and is targeting entry-level positions at advertising, marketing and technology companies. So far, he has sent out about 100 resumes. He also networks on LinkedIn, where his profile emphasizes his work as a marketing assistant at the campus career center, an internship at the Better Business Bureau and retail experience at the Gap. “He is very energetic, very affable, very creative,” said Zavi Gunn, the associate director of career development at the Magner Career Center at Brooklyn College, who is helping him with his job search. “He is always coming up with new ideas.” So far, Mr. Thomas has received two firm offers: one from a company offering a position selling life insurance policies on commission, the other from a firm seeking part-time sales associates willing to solicit clients on the street. He turned both down. He still wants a full-time job that speaks to his spirit. But the clock is ticking. On Friday, his $11-an-hour part-time job on campus came to an end. So now what? The next big thing, Mr. Thomas said. Or the next best thing. “It’s coming,” he said of his big break. “It’s coming.”

>>>>>>