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Finding a career feels more difficult than ever

Alex Perry

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The good news is if you’re reading this, you’re in a better position to find stable employment as an adult than people who didn’t attend college at all. That’s assuming you don’t drop out, of course.

The bad news is, well, most everything else.

Decades ago, some people could pay for tuition with a day job, maybe even accruing a bit of savings along the way. They could use their degrees to find a job, settle down and start a family.

Even at the best of times, that didn’t necessarily pan out for many graduates, but in today’s trying times, we are still told this is the way to go.

It’s no revelation to anybody that the financial burden of a college education has grown exorbitantly, but it’s staggering to actually see the numbers.

Earlier this year, CNBC’s “Debt by Degree” series found the annual tuition at public, four-year schools in 1971 came to less than $500 when adjusted for inflation.

In 2015, students at the same schools can expect to pay around $9,139.

Yes, it’s bad. Additionally, more workplace competition means jobs are fewer and far between, so paying off student debt won’t be easy for most.

I’m graduating in May, and I’d love nothing more than to take a few months and backpack around Europe like graduates did in ancient times, but that won’t be possible for most of us.

In lieu of that, the best we can do is try as hard as we possibly can to find a means to a living wage. I’ve received advice from dozens of recent college graduations over the years, so I’ll share some of it here.

Unpaid internships are scams. You shouldn’t settle for that unless you have an additional means of income or you’re guaranteed a full-time position when it’s done. Don’t be anyone’s human coffee delivery service unless you get something out of it.

Writers and artists, be careful about working “for exposure.” Exposure is great, but it doesn’t pay the rent. Understand your labor has monetary value and be wary of anyone who says otherwise.

Finally, and I know all of you have heard this before, but it really comes down to knowing the right people. You can never do enough networking. If someone can help you get a stable position, it’s definitely worth considering.

The outlook is bleak for college graduates these days, and don’t bet on the government forgiving student loan debt anytime soon. No matter how futile it can feel at times, filling out 15 applications a day is better than doing nothing at all.

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