Why You’re Not Getting a Job After Graduating from College

The following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Kevin Mercadante, who is a professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry.

If you are a recent college graduate and still have not been able to land a job in your chosen career field, you can take comfort in the fact that you are hardly alone in this situation. What is important is developing strategies that will keep this problem from going on too long.

But first, it’s important that you consider the reasons why getting a full-time position your field has been so difficult. Once you understand that, developing a strategy will be easier to do.


A weak job market

It is extremely frustrating to be unable to find a job at a time when the job market seems to be improving. And while it’s true that the overall market is improving, that improvement is extremely uneven. Perhaps nowhere is that more obvious than with recent college graduates.

Recent statistics indicate that there is a “mal-employment” rate of 36% for college grads under the age of 25. Even though the overall unemployment rate for recent college graduates is just 7%, that number hides the fact that many recent grads are either working part-time, or are working in full-time jobs that are not related to their major area of study.

These numbers can vary even more depending upon your major. For example, nurses and accountants are in high demand, while many other majors have a serious oversupply of job candidates.

These numbers are not meant to discourage you, but to paint an accurate picture of exactly where you’re at – and why.


High expectations

When you are fresh out of college, it’s common to expect a certain minimum pay level. After all, not only did you spend the last four years or more earning your degree, but you probably have come out with bills to pay, including student loans.

Unfortunately, the current job market for new college graduates does not justify high expectations in all cases and in all majors. There may be an advantage to taking a lower level position that is at least related to your major, that way you’ll least begin your career and can start building some experience.

It’s also important that you do not go too either without a full-time job, or without one related to your major. Long periods of unemployment – or completely irrelevant employment – can be career-killers in this job market.


Lack of work experience

This is the classic job hunters dilemma – you can’t get a job unless you have experience, but you can’t get experience unless you have a job. This is even more pronounced among recent college graduates because you’ve spent the last few years in school, rather than working in your major area of study.

However, the problem is compounded if you have never held a paying job of any kind during your college years. Some job placement counselors are highlighting this as an issue with employers.

No, a job at Starbucks will not provide any relevant experience if you’re an engineering major, but it does indicate that you have made the transition from student to employee.

An employer often wants to know that you have experience earning a living. A part-time job during your school years could be an indication that you understand the importance of punctuality, that you have worked with customers and under supervision, and that you even have one or two references that can verify your reliability as an employee.

If you don’t have a working history at all, that could be making your job search even more difficult. Employers today want to hire people can “hit the ground running”. They are not keen on training new hires in the basics of holding a job.


What you can do to improve your chances

Okay, that’s a fair description of what you’re up against. What can you do to overcome it?

Take control of the situation. Choose the career that you wish to have and develop career goals that you will stop at nothing to reach. Once you have these goals in place, you can start putting together a plan to attain them. Build your personal brand on your social media pages. Potential employers will research you before your interview, so make sure that your profiles are full of flattering images showing your hardworking and career-oriented side. Research every organization that you apply with and have a solid idea of what your job will entail. This will give you a much better chance of leaving a favorable impression during your interview.

If you’re still in school, get a job now. As we discussed earlier, employers want to know that you at least know how to hold a job. If you’re still in school, get a part-time job even if it is completely unrelated to your major. It will have some value when you graduate and are looking for your first full-time job.

Take a temporary assignment (this can work particularly well for a summer internship, which employers love!). There is a real shift from full-time, permanent positions to temporary and contract work, and it is happening throughout the job market. As a recent college graduate, this can be the perfect niche for you. It will offer you an opportunity not only to gain some experience, but also to make some valuable contacts in the business world. It’s not a perfect situation, and it may be only loosely related to your major, but it is most definitely a foot in the door. And when a future full-time employer is looking for references, you will have them.

Offer to work part-time in your chosen field. A lot of employers who will not consider hiring you for a full-time position may consider taking you on a part-time basis. This has become even more relevant now that the Affordable Care Act is rolling out, and requiring that employers provide health insurance for any employees who work at least 30 hours per week. If you indicate a willingness to work less than 30 hours per week, that could be a way to a job in your field.

Consider self-employment. If you’re unable to land a full-time position related to your major, you might want to give self-employment serious consideration. Investigate the possibilities for self-employment, both within your major and beyond. If the job market is this tough, you may find that self-employment is your only viable option. If that is the case, start as soon as you can and begin building up your business.

If a job that fits your requirements turns up, you can always drop the business. But if a job offer never comes – you’ll be ready.

How about you all? If you are a recent college graduate, are you having any difficulty finding a full-time job related to your major? If so, what are you doing to overcome the problem?

Share your experiences by commenting below! 

***Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonbache/4625864479/


  1. I didn’t have a problem, mainly because I always worked full-time and had good job experience. That really helped me when finding a job because it showed dedication!

  2. Nick @ ayoungpro.com says:

    Like Michelle, I worked full time while attending school full time. That is the best way to do it in my opinion. That way you graduate with a degree and a resume. I landed a “real” post-college job during my last semester.
    Nick @ ayoungpro.com recently posted…The Top 10 Ways to Tell if You are a MillennialMy Profile

  3. I agree with Nick. Working full-time made a huge difference for my employment prospects. Even if you can’t work full time, the more actual experience that you can get, the better.
    Michael @ The Student Loan Sherpa recently posted…Sherpa Money Saving Tip #2: Make Your Next Vacation A Camping TripMy Profile

    • Hi Michael – I think you’re making a good point. The days of a college degree being the credential that opens up employment door has passed. Employers are looking for job candidates who can be immediately productive, and the combination of education and work experience accomplshes that in a way that a degree alone can’t.
      Kevin@OutOfYourRut recently posted…Why Fuel Economy Still MattersMy Profile

  4. Great thoughts here, Kevin. I agree about many kids having too high of expectations. My husband works with lots of fresh out of college kids, and they often aren’t willing to take what they’re offered at the popular company he works for, but instead expect to be making what much more qualified, experienced engineers are making. It just saddens him when they walk away from a great opportunity because of too high of expectations.
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted…Recipe of the Week: Napolean BarsMy Profile

  5. Hi Laurie – I’ve heard the same from other employers. I think what’s happening is that popular perception is usually 5 – 10 years behind reality. Graduates are still thinking in terms of the robust job market of the 1990s, or even the early 2000s before the financial meltdown. It’s a very different job market now, but perception hasn’t embraced that yet.

    As an example, a friend of mine runs an IT recruiting business, and he said that employers are hiring non college graduates with experience over college graduates, not the least of which because the non-grads will work at the offered rate of pay. Grads are looking for pay levels comparable to people with experience. If you’re an employer, who are you going to hire, the non-grad who can hit the ground running when he comes on board, or the grad with no experience who needs to be groomed into the position?

    I think that in a lot of fields, it may be best to arrange some sort of work/study arrangement, so that you’ll be blending your education with hands-on experience.
    Kevin@OutOfYourRut recently posted…Why Fuel Economy Still MattersMy Profile

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