Often, our elders cannot fathom why people our age could have such a thing as a quarter life crisis, said Matt Schrantz, 22, of Springville, a May 2003 history graduate from the University at Buffalo. They cannot comprehend it because they had simpler choices. For many earlier generations, women could either become a nurse, a teacher, a secretary or a housewife. A man could enter several different professions, but, in some cases, ended up working the same shift at the local factory as their father did. (Both) have many more choices today.
Schrantz, presently a part-time community event coordinator for Mercy Flight (a job he started while in school) began law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in late August. But upon starting classes and confronting his unsure feelings about the career, he decided that it was best to take some time off to really consider his future. Schrantz feels that the vast amount of choices create problems for young people.
Success in school presents one with more options than it does definitive answers, Schrantz said. Many people who have attended college confront a vast amount of opportunities. Fear of choosing the wrong one underlies my uncertainty.
Aaron Besecker, 22, of Wheatfield, graduated from UB with a degree in sociology in May 2002. Besecker is in a graduate program in magazine journalism at Syracuse University. When he took a one-year break from school, he worked at several jobs, including substitute teaching, grounds keeping, clerical work, and retail.
At the time I graduated, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career, Besecker said. I majored in sociology because it was the only thing I thought I had real interest in. I hadnt really considered doing it as a career, (and) I think my situation has been more difficult because of my academic record. I really could do whatever I want; therefore, my choices never really were narrowed down for me, and I just kept searching and trying to find what I really wanted to do. I had a lot of interests, and my future was pretty wide open. Probably too wide open.
Besecker said that he finds the lack of urgency in society a problem after graduation. People are just floating because the way the system is set up. Theres always time to figure stuff out, he said. People love to stay in school. Some want to be career students. Its easier than finding a real job. Why bother when you can stay in school and take classes and avoid getting a real job and a real boss.
The majority of complaints from the recent-graduate sector have focused on the state of the economy. Many say, there are no jobs, so what can they do? The ticking-clock of unemployment in their chosen field has soured some graduates, forcing them to re-evaluate the direction of their post-college career.
The economy is awful right now, said Bill Hoppe, 23, of Tonawanda, a 2002 journalism graduate of St. Bonaventure University. I cant imagine it any worse. If we graduated four years ago, I think wed all have jobs right now, but if companies dont have the money to hire, I dont see how they can. I know a lot of others are in the same boat as me, so as bad as I feel, I feel Im not alone. Last week, Hoppe acknowledged the six-month anniversary of his unemployment. He started out the summer after graduation working at a warehouse, shipping orders for a medical company, then was employed by two publications before landing a full-time six-month position with a journalism company that he wished not to name. Hoppe feels that his days are numbered in Buffalo and possibly also in the journalism industry.
There are no jobs (in Buffalo), very little opportunity, Hoppe said. I like Buffalo, and Id like to stay, but I dont think thats going to happen. The economy has been down here for a long time. You have to move if you want a career. Hoppe has tried moving out of the area, sending out resumes across the country, but he has found the same economic problems everywhere. I applied to a job in the South and made it to the final five but didnt get it, Hoppe said. They got 80 applications. A few years before I heard a similar position was open, and they couldnt find anyone to take it. Schrantz agrees and finds the unemployment issues a cyclical problem.
The weakness of the economy offers few job opportunities for young people, especially those graduating from the many local colleges, Schrantz said. These young people leave, creating a gap in the development of a leadership class, business, political, and cultural. Every young person who leaves means the loss of a potential entrepreneur, visionary leader, or outstanding scientist. Mike Cuppalo, 27, of Syracuse, graduated from the University at Buffalo with a bachelors degree in Media Studies. He currently works part time for ClearChannel radio affiliates SportsRadio 620 WHEN and NewsRadio 570 WSYR of Syracuse. He works another part time job at Media Play to make ends meet. Cuppalo feels that the problem is surging not in just Western New York, but in all of New York State and even in the workplace itself.
As a whole, I dont think that things are going very well for me, Cuppalo said. At this point in my life, I envisioned that I would be into a career, not an entry-level part-time job with lousy pay and no advancement. Even if I felt that my current position would lead to something, I could take solace in that. But ClearChannel does not give that vibe. In fact, its a horrible workplace atmosphere with nearly every employee disgruntled. Cuppalo feels that unemployment may not be as big an issue in other cities, but he sees it at crisis-level in New York State.
The awful truth is there are no jobs for graduates in New York State, he said. I saw the numbers from the last census, and the majority of graduates are going out of state to seek work.
Cuppalo blamed the problems on New York State politicians agendas and sees two options for solution. As for solutions there are only two to choose from, he said. The first being we all stick around and wit for some competent leadership in Albany, who is willing to do what it takes to get real jobs back into New York. By real jobs, I mean jobs that dont revolve around Destiny U.S.A. (Syracuses multi-million dollar plan for a tourist-destination mall), which is just basically more low-paying, go-nowhere jobs. Our second option would be to get the hell out of New York while we are still young enough and go find a real job someplace else.
According to a press release from the New York State Department of Labor in August 2003, the states unemployment rate in August rose to 6.2 percent, while the rest of the nation held at 6.1 percent. In New York City, unemployment was 8.1 percent. The state unemployment rate is up from a year ago, a rate of 6.1 percent. Certain industries have experienced harder times than others. Some of the hardest-hit industries have included manufacturing, information, government, professional and business, and financial. Industries with job gains have included education and health services, construction and hospitality, said the release.
In Buffalo and Niagara Falls, since August of 2002 1,200 jobs have been lost at a rate of .2 percent, with Western New Yorks unemployment rate at 6.2 percent, an increase from August 2002, when the rate was 5.7 percent. Professors, some of students most cherished advocates, have seen the difficulty that their students have been facing. Adjunct Associate Professor of Organization and Human Resource Management at UB Joseph Salamone sees economic presence lacking in Western New York. Western New York is not what you would describe as a booming economy, Salamone said. The lack of corporate office presence and decreasing tax base compared to opportunities in other areas that have displayed growth (contribute to students leaving the area). Salamone finds that the students who prove most successful keep in contact with their professors and dont necessarily land their dream jobs right away.
This problem is more cyclical than it is structural (students have the skills, but the opportunities are fewer, due to smaller or slower growth/expansion in companies), he said. In the interim, those students who maintain contact with me are continuing to build their skill sets via part-time, temp, and project-based work. Those students who choose to use their mobility option have proven to be strong and often successful contenders for job opportunities outside of Western New York. Salamone has also encountered many students worthy of quarter life crisis.
Graduates who may second guess their career paths may be graduates who have not validated their interest in the work prior to completing their degree, he said. Limited exposure to the actual work while still in school could result in second guessing ones career choice. Some graduates may just not have the proper insights about the work they are tending toward and instead make a career path decision based on secondary information or market forecasts of growth sectors or growth in starting pay.
The solutions are hazy and financial predictions grim for the coming years. Salamone said to look into typical job growth sectors such as technology, health systems, and education for the easiest hires. He also discusses less traditional opportunities.
What I see is an increasing interest in self-employment, a softening of candidate job-offer acceptance criteria, with factors beyond immediate pay taking on greater importance, and company attention to soft skills, in addition to the contents of a resume, he said. Perhaps, an overall solution goes deeper than just job opportunities that are available and should include an overhaul of the education/training system that pressure the early years of training to become more contemporary market focused.
So what should our struggling graduates do in the meantime? Will they continue the mass exodus from Western New York? Hoppe will keep on with his job quest, but he may move on to graduate school if unsuccessful, he said.
Ill keep doing it to the bitter end, Hoppe said. Ill go down fighting. Ive always wanted to be a journalist, never thought about being anything else. I wouldnt even know what to go back to graduate school for, but just something else to get a job. Please hire me.
Schrantz may use this force-out to contribute to the city later down the road. At some point, I do want to leave the area as to gain more of an appreciation for it and to better understand it, Schrantz said. The perspective of coming from another area could be quite beneficial. I hope to work in or around the government and its policies. In the end, though, I want to end up in Western New York and be part of the solution. I love Buffalo, and I envision a day when we look back with some pleasure, knowing that the obituaries written about the region in recent times were grossly premature.
And as for the future of the city? Something good has to happen. The New York State Department of Labor had predicted an 11.5 percent job growth rate for Western New York in 1998. But then again, that was 1998. And as we all know, things are a bit different than they used to be. By Nicole Schuman
Like a plague spreading across the nation, unemployed graduates are second-guessing their career choices, sending them on a downward spiral of self-doubt, minimum wage salaries, and disillusion. A college degree doesnt guarantee a job anymore in this post-econ boom culture. The crisis has been felt in the Midwest, Silicon Valley and the south, as well as here in the Queen City, by some of the regions most prominent graduates.