It Ain’t Easy Being Ivy?

by Doug Allen

Yale senior Bijan Stephens is pessimistic about his job prospects after graduation:

[Millennials are] cynical because we have to be. America’s economy is self-destructing, wealth inequality is at historic highs, and there’s a chronic shortage of employment, especially for recent grads. According to a Rasmussen report, released on Feb. 5, only 15% of American adults think that their children will be better off than them. That’s a bleak number. What’s worse are the unemployment rates for recent college graduates, astronomically high rates of underemployment, and the phenomenon of long-term negative economic effects—termed “scarring”—that happen as a consequence of recessions. …

[M]y friends and I all know people who graduated from Yale and haven’t been able to find jobs that pay better than minimum wage afterwards: they work as bartenders and in sandwich shops, doing unpaid internships, living on tips. There are only four weeks of classes left in my college career, and I’m still unemployed. It doesn’t surprise me that we’re a generation of cynics. Do we—the kids—stand a chance?

I just can’t find that much pity for someone with a Yale degree who’s having trouble finding a job. Stephens cites statistics that highlight some very real problems faced by graduating college seniors in this tough economy, but these problems are undoubtedly much worse for the 99.9% of undergraduates who don’t have an Ivy League degree.

As a Stanford graduate myself, I think I can empathize with what Stephens is going through to a certain extent. It can be stressful trying to find the right career path to take, and I’ve noticed a tendency to restlessness among some of my peers who are dissatisfied with what they are doing but worried about leaving their jobs due to the economy. Two years ago, I did that myself, leaving my fairly cushy energy consulting job to go back into academia in a new field. Since then, I’ve had an underlying anxiety about whether I made the right choice and what my job prospects will be when I finish my graduate program. But I have found it important to keep in mind that this anxiety is a result of my own choices, not the result of society stacking the deck against my success.

If you are lucky enough to attend an Ivy League school, you definitely stand a chance. What you do with that chance, however, is up to you.