Back in the day, a baby boomer with a college degree pretty much had a ticket to a better lifestyle. Today, however, a new graduate with zero experience can expect a bumpy road filled with much uncertainty.

This year's graduates who became job candidates are part of the sixth consecutive class to try and navigate a labor market marked by high joblessness and depressed wages. The hunt for jobs has been made more difficult by the cutbacks in government, on the federal as well as state and local levels.

The uncertainty of this economic "recovery" has widened the gap between expectations and reality for college graduates who have entered or are are hoping to enter the job market. According to the Economic Policy Institute analysis of federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, this year's college graduates faced unemployment of 8.8 percent, compared with 5.7 percent in 2007, when the recession started.

Underemployment, which includes those who have given up searching and part-timers who want full-time jobs, has soared to 18.3 percent for recent college graduates, compared with 9.9 percent in 2007.

Accenture polled 1,000 grads who finished school in 2011 and 2012 and 1,000 who were graduating this year. The report, which was published in Forbes earlier this summer, showed that only 15 percent of this year's graduating college seniors optimistically expected to earn less than $25,000 a year. But in reality, a third of recent graduates report that they are making that amount or less.

In another show of optimism, only a third of 2013 graduates said they planned to live at home after graduation. Among 2011 and 2012 graduates, however, 44 percent said they were living at home.

For the 2013 graduates polled, only 16 percent said they had a job waiting for them. Thirty four percent, meanwhile, said they were willing to take the first job offered.

According to an Associated Press report, a staggering 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent of college grads under age 25 were out of work or underemployed. A whopping 40 percent of graduates from the nation's top 100 colleges couldn't find jobs in their chosen field.

Andre Dua, a McKinsey director who co-leads the firm's education practice in North America, reports that "your career prospects are highly variable depending on where you go and what you studied on the one hand, and what you do to prepare yourself on the other hand."

Even if the economy improves, she said there's no reason to believe we'll ever return to those to that certain time when a college degree was a pathway to a prosperous life. She said it's important to encourage students of today to develop "soft skills" like how to work effectively in teams, under pressure, and with clients and customers.

"We've entered a time when it's necessary to have competencies in addition to the credential of a degree," she said.

In other words, the person with the more diverse, real world skills has the best chance of navigating the choppy and uncertain jobs market.

By Jim Zbick

editor@tnonline.com [1]