Helping kids find their footing after college

What’s it like to be just out of college, trying to find your way in this recession? How about being the parent of that new grad, hoping your child succeeds? Celia Gust and her daughter, Tayler Anderson, offered us a look.

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Celia’s part of MPR’s Public Insight Network. She told us of Tayler’s recent graduation and ongoing job search in this lousy economy.

Here’s an edited email exchange with Celia, 50, and Tayler, 23. I moved and shortened passages to make it easier to read but I think stayed true to the basic questions: What’s it like for new college grads? How do you help your young adult children as they try to find their way in this recession?

Tayler: People who graduated with their degrees in years past can’t possibly understand how hard it is.

It’s not merely competitive, there are simply too few opportunities and those chances that do arise go to people we couldn’t possibly compete with. Bottom line is we’re all trying to stay optimistic that things will turn around and we’ll all finally get the opportunity to compete in the world that we’re all trying so hard to succeed in.

In a program where in previous years every student was placed in a job before graduation, we now find ourselves moving back home and working the same types of jobs we were before we even attended college. 4 months out and none of the extremely talented people I graduated with in my program has a “real” job.

(Tayler graduated from Western Washington University with a bachelor’s in graphic design and a minor in art history.)

Celia: Tayler has been doing cold calls on all graphic design firms in Portland and Vancouver, she has photography for sale in a local business, she is doing some freelance graphic design work and to pay the bills she now has a part time job at Bath and Body Works.

I keep telling her to not get discouraged, that it may take 6 months or even a year, but she WILL get into her field. My contribution to this is to keep encouraging her…6 months or a year is really not a very long time in the greater scheme of things.

Tayler: I even consider myself lucky to have a job at all, real or not. When you’re little you have these delusions a grandeur that after you go to college you get the privilege of graduating and moving up into the world of your choosing. Into the bottom rungs, of course, but still a step in the right direction.

Instead I now find myself working retail, while people who have 5+ years of experience are taking the jobs intended for recent grads.

Celia: She had at least one job all the time and sometimes two jobs (during college). She took a year off school to establish her residency in Washington State (where she went to school). Basically, she did what she needed to do to get herself through college with small enough loans to be practical to pay off once she was in the job market.

Children learn the most from watching how their parents live their own lives. If you want responsible kids, live responsibly…The thing about children is that they are very smart and they can sniff out hypocrisy faster than anything.

The wild card here, that I can’t judge the impact of, is that my kids know very well that the worst can happen and that although they are not invincible they are incredibly strong. This is because their father, my first husband, died of brain cancer when they were 15 and 12 years old…Through it all, we just tried to maintain our humanity, honor, integrity, compassion and sense of humor.

We are all the sum of the lives we have led (maybe this is the most important lesson of all).

Tayler: Bottom line is we (new graduates) are all trying to stay optimistic that things will turn around and we’ll all finally get the opportunity to compete in the world that we’re all trying so hard to succeed in

(Tayler signed off her last email aka. desperate recent grad)

APRIL 2010 UPDATE: Tayler landed a paid internship. Check out our update on her progress.

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