Job prospects then and now

Kevin Cowherd

May 26, 1993|By Kevin Cowherd

Today's column is directed at you recent college graduates, who will now take your hard-earned degrees in teaching and accounting and chemical engineering and put them to good use pushing burritos at Taco Bell.

Yeah, I saw those cheery headlines the other day: "CLASS OF 93 FACES CRUEL JOB MARKET! WORST EMPLOYMENT SCENE IN 20 YEARS AWAITS COLLEGE GRADS!"

Boy, that'll really make you want to jump out of bed in the morning, huh? No wonder you people are out every night until TC a.m. at keg parties and wet T-shirt contests and satanic rituals in the middle of deserted cemeteries.

Why turn in early if the only thing you have to look forward to is another day sprawled on a lumpy couch watching "McGyver" re-runs?

What you graduates have to realize is that they say the same thing every year about the job market.

Every year is supposed to be the worst one in history for graduating college seniors to find jobs. Just once I'd like to pick up a newspaper in May and read: "JOBS PLENTIFUL FOR NEW GRADS, MEDIAN STARTING SALARY $80,000, MOST COMPANIES THROWING IN FREE CARS."

If it makes you graduates feel any better, the job market was just as shaky when I got out of journalism school in the mid-'70s.

As this was shortly after the Watergate scandals, journalism schools were bursting with bright-eyed, aggressive Woodward and Bernstein clones, eager to bring about the downfall of the president of the United States -- or, barring that, to hound and badger public officials, engage in reckless witch hunts of authority figures and irritate the general public.

Well, it sure sounded like fun to me.

But strangely enough, newspapers at that time weren't clamoring to hire a long-haired guy with zero ambition who didn't want to get out of bed before 10 in the morning because he was out till all hours playing softball and drinking beer with his buddies.

Me, I couldn't get over the attitude of these newspapers.

Here I was, willing to bust my tail for four or five hours a day -- except, of course, weekends and holidays, which is when we had our softball tournaments.

And still they kept sending my resumes back with the smarmy notation: "We are looking for someone a bit more committed."

Well, thank you very much! You don't think that hurt my feelings? For weeks I moped around the house with weepy eyes, barely able to make it to my lumpy couch each morning for another round of "The Price is Right."

But I showed them. I took all the writing and reporting skills I had accumulated at school and promptly found a job as . . . a bartender.

As you can imagine, this sort of a career move really thrilled my mother.

Every once in a while, Mom would come in the bar and look at me and think: "Yeah, there's my son. Look what four years of college did for him. Look at how well he pours that draft beer into that mug! And the snappy way he cleans out those ash trays! And look . . . look how he pushed that drunk's head out of the way so he could wipe down the bar!

"No question about it: I couldn't be prouder of the boy!"

Eventually, though, I landed a job as a reporter at a medium-sized daily newspaper, which any sensible person would recognize as a step down from bartending.

People were coming up and congratulating me on my new job, which I didn't understand at all. Not only was I having less fun, making less money and meeting fewer women, but now I had to deal with all these pain-in-the-neck editors.

At one point I thought: "Gee, if I get any more successful, I might need anti-depressants."

But maybe times are even tougher now for graduating seniors, if that's possible. The other day I read in the newspaper about an economics major graduating from a large college in Maryland.

Since he hasn't yet lined up a job, he planned to begin his post-academic career mowing lawns.

Mowing lawns! Isn't that the kind of job you look for in eighth grade?!

What's next for this poor guy, a sidewalk lemonade stand? Setting up a rickety bridge table with a crude cardboard sign, a half-dozen Dixie cups and a pitcher of watery Country Time mix?

Harassing neighbors and passers-by with annoying cries of: "Hey, git yer lemonade here! Ice cold lemonade!?"

Living (if that's the word) on the proceeds of a business which takes in a nickel a cup and three cents for re-fills?

I don't know . . . it seems like an awful lot of stress to me.

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