Understanding the Unemployed

July 11, 2011

by Allison Floyd

You have probably heard that the latest unemployment rate reported was 9.2%. Yowzah.  While the outlook for 2011 grads looking for work is said to be a little better than it was for 2010, many of the unemployed are still recently matriculated college students looking to enter the work force. Speaking for that particular demographic, that is to say, recent college grads who have not been able to find work in their chosen fields, forcing them to either take jobs they don’t want and aren’t interested in, or leaving them broke and unemployed, there are a few things the average citizen ought to know about these young people.  They are out there, they are looking for jobs, and often, they are unsuccessful.

Firstly, I ask for some understanding.  We all know this is a tough economy, so when you ask a recent graduate why they are waiting tables instead of “putting their degree to good use,” (condescending much?) stop and think that maybe they’re trying to, but haven’t had success yet. The job-search process is a long, grueling one filled with applications, resumes, cover-letters, returned phone calls, interviews and most importantly, merely finding a good opportunity.  Maybe they have taken a part-time or full-time position at an establishment you feel is beneath a college grad to pay their bills while looking for a “real” job. They’re doing what they have to in order to get by.  Also, don’t assume that they got a degree in a useless subject. Right now the market is disadvantageous for anyone who didn’t major in Business, Finance, Engineering, or Computer Science.  So that leaves…pretty much every other major there is, so think before you put in your two cents about what makes for a useless degree.

Secondly, I ask for no judgement. It is wearing on a person to be continually asked “So, what is it you want to do with your life?” Often, graduates don’t know for sure, or if they do know and have been unsuccessfully trying to get into a specific field, you’re just reminding them of their failures and all the stress that comes with job hunting.  Please don’t look down on those who haven’t found their way yet. Don’t begrudge those who have taken jobs waiting tables or at Target, because everyone needs money to survive and there is nothing to be ashamed of when you are working to support yourself. Also, if a post-grad is living at home with his or her parents, don’t think less of them.  A person really can’t live on minimum wage, (I don’t care what the government says, you just can’tlive on eight dollars an hour or less without working a bazillion hours a week at multiple jobs) and if the parents are okay with it, and it is understood that the graduate is making a sincere effort to become independent, then let them be.  Don’t criticize someone who is getting help from their family.

Thirdly, I ask for you to walk in a post-grad’s shoes. Remember that those of us living on minimum wage jobs while we wait for our big break into the real world are hoarding our money like misers.  If they are like me, they are working their butts off to maintain a savings that will allow us to eventually leave the nest and become self-sufficient. Recognize, in that spirit, that now is not the time expect us to be anything but frugal with our precious dollars.  At Christmas time, on birthdays, or even Mother’s Day, please don’t be offended at our modest gifts. We’re trying to hard to save money that will one day be our rent, or our car insurance, or our grocery money, so please don’t expect expensive gifts from us. Plus, isn’t it supposed to be the thought that counts?

Basically what I want to communicate is that life goes on, whether you are employed or not. There are still bills to pay, cars still break down, and you have to eat, be clothed, and have a roof over your head. I now humbly ask those who are employed in a field of their choosing to be sensitive to those of us who aren’t there yet.



  1. Amen! I could not have written it more beautifully. I can relate to this 100%. Really, everyone knows it’s a tough economy yet they continue to look down on us for living at home, waiting tables etc.

  2. No one should look down on someone who is making an honest living. Does anyone think that if we didn’t HAVE to wait tables, we wouldn’t?

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