Students concerned with not finding a job in their field or skill level after graduation will not be encouraged by a recent study by CollegeGrad.com that found that 18 percent, or nearly one in five, recent college graduates are underemployed.
But this new report sheds no new light on an issue that has been around for decades, Robert Greenberg, director of Career Services said.
"Over 30 years ago, I did research on the market for college graduates and underemployment was an issue back then," Greenberg said. "It's not something that's new. It's something that has been with us in various degrees for a long time."
CollegeGrad.com defines underemployment as working, but in a job that does not match one's skill set or chosen field of study.
Greenberg explained that underemployment is part of the normal job cycle, meaning that it is not always possible for graduates to walk into jobs perfectly suited for them. Sometimes that means starting off at the bottom of the ladder in an entry level position - such as the legendary mail room, or waiting tables while hoping for an audition on Broadway - as the first step toward higher career goals.
"That's considered underemployment," he said. "That's when someone is waiting while trying to get a foot in the door for the dream job that they are after."
Michael Brill, senior in graphic design, agreed.
"I realize that things do not always fall into people's laps. We are not all that lucky. If you like the field that you are in then you are going to try your damnedest to get a job in that field."
"There are some fields that are much more highly competitive than others, and it may be necessary to work in a job that you don't feel has to do with your field in order to reach your goals," said Stephen Carpenter, senior in English literature who is making plans for law school after graduation.
But in Carpenter's view, there are limits, he said.
"If you're a mechanical engineer and you're flipping burgers at McDonald's, then perhaps you should do some self-reflecting," Carpenter said.
"I personally feel that it is more important to work at a job that you don't mind waking up for in the morning," Carpenter added. "It may mean less money and it may not be as stable as other jobs but you'll feel better about yourself doing it."
Helping students choose careers and find jobs in those careers of most interest and satisfaction to them is a key focus of Career Services, Greenberg said.
"You want to like what you're going to do," said Greenberg. "I've talked to enough people who were unhappy in their 30s because they did just the pragmatic thing ... and they regret not having tried to do what they really wanted to do. So we don't discourage people from going after their dream job, but we want some reality to be mixed in there with it."
Career flexibility, as Brill sees it, is part of the process.
"If I do not land a position in a design firm after I graduate, then I am going to look for some other jobs that may pay well but may not be in my field," he said. "But I will see if, in some cases, that I would be able to use the skills that I have learned to apply to the job that I have."
Greenberg said, "My advice, to the extent that it is possible, is for freshmen and sophomores to start thinking about the types of careers they'd like. It's not something where you ought to wait until you're a semester away from graduation."
Career Services, 100 Dunford Hall, offers a wide range of career support and preparation resources for students and alumni in order to help them choose fields of study in line with their interests, as well as services to prepare them for the inevitable job search.
The Career Services Web site can be found at http://career.utk.edu, and students can call 974-5435 for more information.
The CollegeGrad.com Employment Survey was conducted from Aug. 1 and Aug. 31 and included information from 2,350 entry level job seekers from across the nation.