Life after college: the challenging state of today’s job market

blog post cover

Key takeaways

  • With the economic climate impacting the job market, millions of graduates are struggling to secure positions. On average, it now takes two to three months to land an entry-level role, with 16% spending over half a year searching.
  • This hardship is leaving many disillusioned with 43% of recent graduates expressing regret over the field of study they chose.
  • Worse yet, many young people feel the education system has poorly prepared them for life’s challenges. Some 40% of recent graduates believe they lack the maturity to cope in the adult world, while 26% feel their academic experiences offer them little help in overcoming hardships.

Higher education is supposed to set us up for the future — giving graduates the pick of the best roles in their chosen field, a fast track to the top rung of the career ladder, and a salary that more than covers the sky-high loan repayments.

Young people today find themselves graduating into a world struggling with economic decline. Businesses are strapped for cash, jobs are in short supply, and there is always someone willing to do more for less. 

On average, there is now only one job opening on LinkedIn for every two eager applicants. Finding a role is twice as hard as it was just a year ago, but at least the salary is worth the effort, right? Actually, research shows that when preparing for work, students overestimate their salary expectations by 88% on average, with graduate wages having remained stagnant for half a century. 

EduBirdie surveyed 2,000 young people from the US on their experiences in the job market since graduating. Results show that school doesn’t prepare us for life, which leaves many scratching their heads when it comes time to enter the job market.

Navigating the never-ending job search

The reality is young people shouldn’t expect to throw off their graduation gowns and step immediately into their dream role. With more than two million graduates joining the workforce every year, competition for starter roles has never been higher. The salary offered is comically low, and the real-life experience demanded is unrealistic, but you apply anyway. On average, you find yourself up against 250 applicants, and only four to six will be invited to an interview.

31% of graduates take more than three months to land their first job

With opportunities limited, it takes two to three months on average for most graduates to secure their first job. But for more than 16%, the search stretches on for more than half a year — giving them just six months to secure a role before another two million graduates begin their search.

45% of recent graduates work in unrelated to their education fields

While most do eventually manage to secure a job in their chosen field, the hard work required to navigate the job market often forces recent graduates to abandon the career goals they’ve spent years working towards. In fact, some 45% end up securing a job in a field unrelated to their education, with 32% of those hoping they can eventually get back on track.

The reward for a formal education? Regret

20% of people think they are overqualified for their job

Taking those first few steps in the workplace can be daunting. A good graduate role needs to provide a challenge, but offer room for young people to make mistakes, learn and grow. Here, businesses seem to be doing the perfect job with 73% feeling that the roles and responsibilities expected of them are reasonable.

However, whether due to a lack of a position for them to move into or a limited budget to cover a salary bump, 19% of young people do not feel that their current job matches their level of experience.

24% of people don't believe their education will help them advance their career

But there’s nothing to worry about…That certificate or diploma will help those unsatisfied in their role to take the next step in no time. It should, at least. However, the reality is, higher education simply doesn’t prepare students to climb the corporate ladder. In fact, having had to work so hard to land their current role, 24% fear that their education will offer little help when it comes to advancing their careers.

43% of people express regret over chosen field of study

Higher education often comes at an astronomical cost. For many students, the reward isn’t career prosperity but a lifetime of regret (unless they’re willing to double their debt and head back to college).

After college, many students don’t know if they still want to pursue a career in their chosen subject. Some 13% are simply no longer interested in their field of study. That’s perfectly understandable — Deciding what to do for the rest of your life is a big decision to make at such a young age. However, for 24%, this regret isn’t due to a lack of passion for the subject but rather because the job market doesn’t share their sentiment.

Are life skills missing from the syllabus?

40% of graduates have concerns over their ability to face adult cituations

“When I was your age, I was married with two children, my own home, and a thriving business”... Words all young people have had to endure at some point in their lives. 

The reality is, the world has changed and adulting is harder than it once was. With the job market barren and wage growth weak, the pressure on young people today is unprecedented. It’s really no surprise that 41% of recent graduates feel unprepared for the adult world — and it’s only getting worse. In fact, 31% of Gen Zs feel less mature than their peers, let alone as mature as their parents were at the same age, compared to just 20% of millennials. It begs the question, does college prepare people for life?

only 45% of youth feel school prepared them to deal with workspace conflicts

All that self-doubt can make it difficult for young people to thrive in the office, especially when they haven’t been taught how to cope in adult situations. Despite years spent in the classroom, all those textbooks failed to provide real-life experience. Some 43% of students admit they don’t have the skills to deal with work conflicts, for instance.

26% of young people feel their experience has not helped them overcome hardships

How does school prepare you for the real world? Not very well, it seems… and it isn’t only in the workplace where education is failing young people.  Some 26% feel that their academic experience has not helped them to overcome challenges in any aspect of their lives.

With technology rapidly reshaping the job market and economic pressure providing plenty of uncertainty, the education system can’t just teach students their subject matter — It needs to prepare students for the reality of real life, teaching them the soft skills to deal with hardship and navigate the adult world successfully.

Methodology: To create this study, researchers from EduBirdie surveyed 2,000 people from the US. Participants were invited to share their experiences at random with no focus on particular genders, ethnicities, or social backgrounds.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

Related Blog Posts

Join our 150К of happy users

  • Get original papers written according to your instructions
  • Save time for what matters most
Place an order