“The job market sucks, my man,” a real estate consultant regrettably acknowledged at an investment conference this past week. “But look at the bright side,” motioning an erect pointer finger toward the fully stocked open bar, “There’s free booze!”
Continuing, he lectured that I really ought to blame my parents for “having me when they did. You could have avoided the economic climate,” the consultant concluded, “and would have had a much easier time when job hunting.”
I thought about his cheeky observation for a while and then realized that graduating this year isn’t that bad. Sure, our economy is in the toilet, job offers are being rescinded left and right and the thought of paying back my student loans makes me grimace.
Despite all this, I’ve found that thinking positively about my impending departure from college helps make the situation a lot less depressing.
It could be a whole lot worse. Imagine older friends and family who are just weeks away from retirement. They’ve picked out their vacation home, they’ve planned out the first few years and they’ve mentally prepared for a well-earned retirement. Then, they wake up one morning and realize that their 401k is about half of what it was months ago. This is reality for many Americans whose lives have essentially been placed on hold.
Many of us as students don’t have the burden of mortgages, children and significant others. And while it will be tough to pay back student debt, there are numerous loan deferment packages that are available for us after graduation. Most loans don’t require payment to begin until six months after graduation, so that will give you even more time to land a job and start saving. Good luck finding something with such a generous deferment package when it comes to paying your mortgage, utility bills and grocery receipts.
There are advantages to being a Cornellian right now. Some say Ithaca is not the “real world” and that things we learn here are theoretical and out of synch with reality. But the truth is that this is an optimal time to be in college. Many of us are in classes with professors and guest speakers who are able to effectively analyze the economic crisis. At least in the Hotel School, class discussions regarding the recession ensue on a regular basis. Dare I say that our education now will help us learn from these mistakes when we are in positions of leadership and authority?
President Skorton has e-mailed us numerous times regarding cuts that the University is making (including a respectable and dually noted 10-percent decrease in the president’s own salary). In response, the Student Assembly passed a resolution sponsored by Ryan Lavin ’09, Greg Mezey ’09 and Anthony Miller ’10 that focused the S.A.’s activities on merging superfluous student groups and evaluating the way student groups pool their resources. This new policy will begin a process of evaluating the way student groups operate on campus in a mature and well thought-out manner. The resolution reflects a legitimate step for undergraduates who are doing their part to help during the economic crisis.
As a community, as students, as leaders, we are learning to deal with limited budgets. We are forced to think of creative ways to fills gaps caused by a loss in funds available from the University. For example, the Slope Day Programming Board recently received a huge funding boost from the Cornell Concert Commission, and they are looking to receive more funding from the S.A. The board will certainly be looking at ways to cut costs so as to not run a deficit. This is exceptional preparation for the real world and the same thing is happening to student groups across campus.
The economic crisis is providing students with opportunities to do things they probably would not have done under normal circumstances. More and more students are traveling, applications for Teach For America, City Year and the Peace Corps have shot through the roof, and business, law and other graduate programs are receiving a record number of applicants. Business schools are looking more favorably when admitting undergraduates immediately into MBA programs. The economic crisis is forcing students to think outside of the box, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
And if we do take these opportunities in graduate schools, the Peace Corps and more, we’ll be looking to enter the work force in a time when the economy is on the upswing and the challenge to find jobs will not be as difficult.
I would not be the first to tell you that I would prefer to be graduating in a better job market. But there is no use in sulking about how bad the economy is and how we are suffering. The most productive thing we can do is to look at the bright side of things. We just might need some help in finding the open bar.