In part one of a five-part series on Millennials, we examine the struggles many graduates face when trying to find employment after college.
(Brand X Pictures, ThinkStock)
(Brand X Pictures, ThinkStock)

Since graduating college, 30-year-old East Brunswick resident Joseph Evaristo believes he has sent out more than 700 job applications.

“Basic math, I assume about two applications a week on the low-ball side, for eight years. That’s about 700. I’ve done other things, I’ve cold-called companies, I’ve walked in, I’ve gone to networking events, I’ve spoken to elders in my field, I’m in two staffing agencies, so I’ve done  a lot.”

While Joseph’s story is troubling, it’s by no means unique. Millennials, that is the generation of young people ranging from their early 20s to early 30s, are facing one of the roughest job markets in a long time.

“In the 80s and 90s we needed legions of white collar workers because their tasks were relatively similar,” said Professor James Hughes, director of the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.

He notes the nature of employment for many young people has changed; many of the jobs they expected to see growing up are no longer there.

Graduates with in-demand degrees like computer programming, software engineering, and other science forward skills are the ones in the catbird seat when it comes to getting high paying work.

“So the kind of people that Google hires, the high tech firms, because they need skilled imaginative people and they’re calling the shots,” Hughes said.

Graduates who didn’t major in high tech or science fields are finding themselves without the options their parents might have had.

“I think the most difficult situation for millennials are if they majored in religion or philosophy is college,” Hughes said.

Hughes said companies are expecting more from their hires and expect them to hit the ground running, largely because the pools of qualified experienced candidates is so large.

“[Before] corporations were so desperate for workers they’d take them on and do the training, they didn’t care where the field was, that’s ancient history today,” he said.

Hughes noted even many of the "back office" type jobs that were done in New Jersey for Manhattan-based companies have been moved to other parts of the state, largely because technology has allowed for employees to telecommute much easier, allowing companies to put operations in the Midwestern states where cost of living is cheaper and salaries can be smaller.

Many recent graduates are also up against job candidates with significantly more experience and are willing to accept lower pay, creating a "race to the bottom" of sorts for wages.

“I’ve seen video editor positions where they want someone who is a graphic artist, an IT technician, a web designer all rolled into one even though those skills really don’t exist together,” Evaristo said. “I’ve also run into a problem where I don’t have many contacts, I’m good at what I do but I’m not good at schmoozing. I’m not good at making those insider connections. Lastly, I find that I’m applying for jobs with my seven-year experience that only need one to two years of experience, but they’re getting so many people with 10 or more years’ experience they aren’t even looking at me.”

Bradley Rice, 26 years old of Lincroft, who graduated with a degree in film and history, has been lucky enough to find a job and have work experience. He still however can’t afford to move out on his own and is forced to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. He also finds himself wedged between another wave of graduates and a glut of experienced rivals.

“[Recent graduates] have been out of school for less time than me, they are cheaper employment," Rice said. "I’ve had some experience where I would be expected a certain amount of money, but they have people with much more experience that they can give the same amount of money to as me. So it’s really a bad balance.”

Even with degrees, internships, and good resumes liberal arts graduates continue to struggle.

“If I could I would absolutely go back to school, not had gotten an English degree, and gotten a business degree or something that made me a better candidate in the job market,” said Che Blackwood, 27, from Spring Lake Heights.

“Am I happy with what I did? Yes, it taught me a lot, I grew as a person, and I learned some really valuable skill, but in terms of marketable degrees and skills, I would have gone into project management earlier,” said Rice.

Evaristo said in hindsight, he would have forgone the entire college process.

“I’ve looked at what I’m doing now and I would have been far better off if I hadn’t [gone to college]. The jobs that I’m doing now have been previously done by high school students, so if I had started then and just got the experience and not bothered with college, I would have had that ten years’ experience that would make me competitive today and I wouldn’t have a ton of student loans hanging over my head. Right now I make as much in student loans as I make.”

However Hughes notes, ultimately college is still the best bet for many people, since graduates are still poised to make more money over their lifetime. Additionally he said, medical services, sales, and a number of white collar jobs that require face to face contact will remain.

He does, however, note that young people not sure about what to do for a career should consider trades, many of which are at a shortage.

“If you ever try to find an electrician to repair something in your house, you’ll realize there are not a lot of electricians out there. There are potentially very lucrative careers that focus on maintaining residential infrastructure.”


Video production by Toniann Antonelli