As Memorial Day approaches, many people are graduating from high school and college, and it seems there's a recession developing, I think it's good to review job opportunities, career choices and some of the new realities of the workplace. First, there's an interesting, if a little bit silly article by Rachel Zupek for the AOL career section. Rachel shows her emphases by including both news reporters and writers on her A-Z list of "amazing" jobs. Rachel also says that kindergarten teaching "pays well." And the salaries are clearly national averages (for some, they might be including American Samoa and Guam - yes, they're that low) not what one might expect in So. Cal. But it's an interesting rundown. For those looking toward starting college in the fall as undeclared majors, reviewing lists like this can jog an interest that will help you to develop your major and eventual career plan. They could help you decide to try an internship or summer job, too -- then you can learn whether or not that career field is for you. (Actually - she puts "embalmer" as "E" on the list - I don't think the majority of students are going to want a summer job learning how to do that).
I also have some real-world news and advice. STAY IN SCHOOL AND GRADUATE! According to one of my expert informants in the field of jobs and employment, employers who might have accepted job applicants with GED's in the past are no longer accepting them. They are demanding verified high school diplomas. The recession is real, as I said yesterday, despite the efforts of some pundits to state there's nothing wrong (by the same token - I'm not saying "vote" for anybody - like that will matter!). This means that, at least in urban areas like Los Angeles, people are being laid off of better-paying jobs and are taking any job they can get, pushing entry-level workers out of the running for the jobs they'd have easily gotten as recently as a year ago. By entry-level, I mean minimum wage to $10 an hour. People who failed to graduate from high school, or who just have a GED, perhaps obtained through some type of rehabilitation program, are in a much weaker position these days. They are being pushed into jobs that have been traditionally held by "undocumented workers" in the past (i.e. - GED doesn't even matter - are you a live body and can you push a lawn mower?). Lower-skilled and educated citizens are increasingly moving into landscaping, housekeeping in private homes, and individual child care (nannies or "au pairs"). It is true: the undocumented are being pushed aside -- people hiring these workers do prefer U.S. citizens because of the legal issues. It's also true that poorer quality work often comes from the new au pairs, nannies, housekeepers and gardeners, who may have, after failing to complete, oh, say 8th GRADE by choice, think for some moronic reason they are "better than" somebody from Central or South America who completed 4th grade -- because that was all that was there for them!
Kids are having trouble getting summer jobs right now. One young man I know applied for more than 25 jobs before getting hired. The message of all this? Don't take your education for granted. People who have struggled in the past as a result of not understanding the importance of education (school dropouts), or those with poor or sporadic work histories are at even more of a disadvantage right now. As one of the smart, tough and survivor types, it might seem "easy" for me to say, because fulfilling my responsibilities always came naturally (it literally never occurred to me to drop out of school, nor to try "my own methods" as opposed to the generally-accepted ones - gaining skills and experience and building upon past successes). But it's terribly important. When times get hard, the weaker applicants do find themselves unable to work. Some people's solution to this is "politics," which can hardly do an effective job over the long run to create new jobs and opportunities. The government is already employing at maximum as it is (taking up 30% of GDP as it does). Every one of those jobs takes another one from somebody else who isn't so lucky as to live in a special pork barrel town or neighborhood. So, if you're going to graduate soon, good for you! And if you've made some poor choices in the past, get back to school, and get to work.