Are There Storm Clouds on the Horizon as the Graduation Music Fades for 2022 College Grads


We are deep into May, and the news and social media platforms are filled with images of college graduations. Congratulation to all the graduates on a significant achievement. It’s definitely a time to celebrate. But as the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance” begin to fade into the background, a new reality takes center stage. There are four likely paths before you (or your son or daughter if you are a parent reading this article). Full Employment. Continuing Education. Underemployment. And Zero Employment.


  • Full Employment: If you are in the Full Employment bucket, that’s excellent news. You probably are not even reading this article. You already have a full-time professional position aligned with your degree, and you are on your way.


  • Continuing Education: If you have decided to pursue an advanced degree, your path is mapped out for at least the next year or longer.


  • Underemployment: In this scenario, the definition of underemployed means that you now have a college degree and a job. But the position and skills required fall far below your education and skill set. For example, the individual with a Bachelor of Science and a major in Business Administration working behind the counter at Starbucks.


  • Zero Employment: No secret here. You have a college degree in hand, but your position is the couch in the family room or basement. In other words, no job on the horizon and no path to reach your career destination.


My focus for today is on the Underemployment and Zero Employment categories. If you watch or read the news today about the hot job market, you will think every college graduate is walking across the stage with a degree in one hand and a full-time professional job offer in the other.


For example, from CNBC just a few days ago, you get this headline: “This is the best job market for new college grads this century.” And this one from the National Association of Colleges and Employers stating that “employers are planning to hire close to 32% more college grads in 2022 compared to 2021.”


All appears great until you take a look underneath the surface of the headlines. Look at this recent data from the Pew Research Center. As of March 2022, the unemployment rate had dropped to only 2% for college graduates with a 4-year degree. But and this is important, as recently as December 2021, 41% of all college graduates under the age of 27 were classified as underemployed.


The headlines lead you to believe that a college degree equals the full-time professional position of your dreams for every graduate this month. But the math and this thing called underemployment lead me to a different reality. If my calculations are correct, over 30% of these recent graduates may be employed but are looking at their new job thinking, “I spent four years in college for this position?” or “How am I going to pay back my student loans with this job?”


On top of the underemployment challenge, as I draft this article, the stock market (using S&P 500 as a proxy) is down 17+ percent in 2022, the worst year-to-date performance since World War II. The US economy is on the precipice of slipping into a recession of indeterminate length and severity. You better believe those same CEOs that several months ago were planning to hire 32% more college graduates in 2022 are now rethinking their strategic plans for the rest of this year.


So, what should you (or your son or daughter) do if you fall into one of those last two buckets of Underemployment or Zero Employment? You could take the path of least resistance and just hit the online job boards with your resume. You could also go down to your local convenience store and buy a scratch-off lottery ticket. Your odds of a successful outcome are about the same in either scenario.


I recommend that you consider a second approach. Take a measured and process-centric approach to your job search. I am admittedly biased toward the AdvantEdge Job Search Process™. A four-phased and twelve-step approach to the job search process built on a foundation of proven sales and marketing principles. Each phase and step are a logical progression toward the ultimate goal of full-time employment aligned with your degree and targeted career path.


Don’t let the headlines and your current position get you down. Things are not as rosy as they appear, and the economic headwinds will also subside over time. What you need to do is get started planning and then executing your job search taking it one logical and thoughtful step at a time.


Dan Troup is the author of Selling You: The AdvantEdge Job Search process available through multiple channels in Paperback and eBook formats. He is also the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a job search expert and certified career coach can assist you, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.