Runs In Transit

Category: Career

The Job Market for College Grads

The US economy is at an interesting cross-roads. The effects of the 2008 recession were massive and lingered much longer than the duration of the financial crisis. Unemployment reached a peak of 10% in 2009, but today it is 5.6% and dropping rapidly. I’m no macro-economist, but I do have a good understanding of what this means for the job market.

You see, many people might think that with hard work and determination, we have full control of our lives and careers. That’s simply not true. College students who graduated between 2008 and 2014 entered the job market to an ultra-competitive job market marked by scarcity. Companies who were ravaged by the recession were hesitant to hire employees that weren’t essential. Older workers who were preparing for retirement saw their pensions shrink and decided to keep working at their positions. Middle aged workers with secure jobs were suddenly laid off and had to find jobs much lower-paying jobs. For college graduates who didn’t go to elite schools, this meant little to no chance of finding an entry-level job with good career prospects – they simply weren’t competitive.

On the other hand, if you graduated in the mid 2000’s, you entered the job market when the US economy was growing at an unprecedented rate. The unemployment rate was as low as it could get realistically (around 4%) and companies were desperate for smart young professionals whether they had experience or not. Employees were in high demand, and wages were high. If you couldn’t get a job in 2004-2007, then you were either an English major from a low tier school or hopelessly incompetent. This was a dream period, and those that found jobs then were set up for great careers.

But unfortunately, if your parents had you a few years later, then you would face economic turmoil. Your resume paled in comparison to desperate workers with a decade of relevant experience. Service jobs became a temporary necessity and graduate school seemed like a good option. Suddenly, your whole mental structure of life: go to school, get a job, and start a family, was cut prematurely. This can be daunting, even shattering. But today, you’re in luck. The unemployment rate is going back to 2004 levels and the US economy is on pace to have its strongest decade of growth since the turn of the century. If you tried to enter the workforce during this period, hopefully the recession didn’t hit you too hard and you didn’t have to settle for a job at Cubicle Co. filing paperwork. Even if you did, this is a great opportunity to turn things around. But how, you might ask?

Well… like most things, it depends, both on your goals and abilities, but here’s an anecdote that may help. You want to do something you’re passionate about, right? That way you have the motivation to pour everything you have into your work and become the best in your field. Now do it. The thing is, technology is so prevalent that you have no excuse to do something about your passions. The camera on your smartphone is amazing. If you love film, make a movie with it. Do you enjoy boxing? Make youtube videos analyzing boxing matches. The alternative is selling yourself on the job market with nothing but a resume. An employer doesn’t see your potential, and you won’t get your worth-you won’t even get freedom. I believe the economy is moving toward increased specialization on the level of the individual. Produce what your dream job entails and keep doing it. If you really love it, you will get good, people will come to you, and you will be discovered. Companies will offer you money to do the exact same thing for them, and you will get your true value.

Of course, this is an anecdote and does not apply universally, but the fundamental idea stands true. The economy is on the upswing and the supply of jobs is increasing. You won’t have companies fighting over you, at least not any time soon. But don’t wait for the “perfect time”, now is the perfect time. If you like economics, like me, go ahead and learn the shit out of it and produce something out of it. Make videos, write articles, record podcasts-everything you need is at your fingertips. And if you’re not motivated to do that, then you might not deserve to get your dream job.

latest_numbers_LNS14000000_2004_2014_all_period_M12_data

Ah, what a beautiful trend-line.

Two Stories on Self-Actualization

A high school counselor once told me, “in middle school, you begin to get a grasp of who you are, and maybe understand 20% of yourself. In high school, you start to get a good sense of your identity, and maybe get 60% there. In college, you get very close, perhaps 90%, and you begin to be pretty sure of your self, your passions, and your personality. The rest of adulthood is just finishing that last 10%.”

Her words stuck with me, and I’ve told them to myself again and again. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to change its interpretation. I used to use her advice as an excuse to not have a “passion” or a true direction in life, thinking that it will all come with time. But then something happened. I went to college, graduated, and was no closer to discovering what I wanted to do with my life. So what did her advice really mean?

Looking back, my counselor was someone who pursued a career as a singer but gave up those dreams to become a high school counselor. She was someone who knew what she wanted to do at a young age, pursued it to its fullest (and according to her, was quite good), but as she grew older, came to the realization that it wasn’t for her, that working with teenagers was her true calling. In this context, her advice meant something completely different. She was telling me that knowing who you are is not the end of the journey, that even that understanding is subject to change.

A few days ago, I woke up with a dozen emails on my phone. They were comments from a blog post I made about Settlers of Catan. To my surprise, there were 20,000 views on the post. Thinking they were spam-bots, I looked at where they were coming from. It turns out that whoever runs the Settlers of Catan facebook page, which has 316k likes, posted my link to the front page. Within a few days my blog’s total viewers shot up from 500 to over 30,000.

The next few days, I felt the need to write more about Settlers of Catan or game strategy in general. I wanted to follow up on something that was successful because of the positive affirmation I received from it. But as I thought about it, I realized that doing so would be going against the reason I started this blog in the first place –  to write about whatever I want whenever I want. If I wrote about what other people wanted to see, I would have given up a piece of that freedom and perhaps eventually lost the motivation to write in the first place. Success, in this case, had the potential of taking priority over interest.

What do these stories have to do with each other? Well, ever since you’ve been a child, your parents, teachers, and friends have shaped who you are by telling you what you’re good at. By doing so, they’ve pushed you in those directions. And this makes sense. In a world with 7 billion people, you almost have to specialize in something, not to mention be good, in order to make a living. But what if you didn’t like the specialization that you ended up in? What if that specialization crowded out other ones that you would have enjoyed much more? Is success more important than passion in this case?

I think what my counselor was trying to tell me was that you will always be learning more about yourself. Although your passions might stay the same, you will adopt new ones as you discover new paths. Pursue your passions, but be aware that one day you might find a different calling, and that it is okay to change your direction in life. Additionally, be cautious of people telling you you’re good at something. They could say you’re the best in the world, and they might be right, but don’t let it dictate what you do. Pursue things naturally, take advice with a grain of salt, and above all, keep learning, because life is too short to put success over happiness. Be adaptable and don’t live your life narrowly or according to other people’s guidelines.

In the same vein, I’ll keep blogging about the random things that pop into my mind.

Gardens: starsHere’s a cool picture of the sky. The answer’s gotta be out there somewhere, right?

“What Do You Really Want?”

I want to set up a bed in the back of a car and road trip across the US. I want the freedom to do so with no financial, time, or geographic strain. I want to visit Europe, spend more time in China, and see Japan. I want to start a business that allows me to work anywhere in the world. I want to be able to support myself and not have to rely on my parents. I don’t want to work a 9-5 job. I don’t want to do something I don’t enjoy for the security. I don’t want to be a “young professional”. I want to be able to get bored of something and go do something else. I want to be somewhere and say, “this is exactly where I want to be right now.” I want to read books for the sake of it. I want to enjoy nature. I want to make friends that are completely different from me and learn from them. I want to learn from myself. I don’t want to do things because of pressure from my parents, friends, or society. I want to break from these chains. I want to be free. I want to be happy.
 
(The purpose of this post is to reflect about what I really want out of life. The reason is that it is easy to make decisions that are motivated by outside influences rather than our own desires. The goal is to remind myself to never drift too far from myself. Hopefully it may be of use to someone else.)

The Life of a Delivery Driver

Two months ago, I got a job as a delivery driver and have been working 10-20 hours a week. It’s been interesting. As someone with a college degree, I’m certainly overqualified, but nevertheless, it’s a good job to pay for consumption, gets me off the computer, and gives me time to ruminate. Here are some insights:

I work for a top 5 tech based delivery startup. They specialize in small markets such as college towns and use GPS and mobile applications to streamline their deliveries. They are desperately trying to be like Uber and Airbnb in that they try to be “share” economies. In their contracts they call their drivers “partners” and stress that drivers don’t work for them but are independent (drivers definitely do work for them, they just want to avoid liabilities and performing extra administration). All in all, they are a startup with medium potential (they generated a few million in venture capital). Although the business has low profit margins, there are many markets out there and they have room for growth. However, I don’t think the company will reach a large level because there is stiff competition from bigger companies, the nature of deliveries means there is a low profit limit, and the founders aren’t as innovative as Uber and Airbnb and are simply following the footsteps of successful companies.

I am a driver in the companies biggest market. I perform deliveries for a dozen restaurants from Mcdonald’s to Chili’s. I receive my orders through text on my phone and update my delivery status to the company through an app. When I don’t have an order I can chill out and do whatever. Every delivery I make a flat rate of $3 and keep 80% of the tip, unless it’s cash-then I keep it all. Minimum wage is $12 if I don’t make more than that. I also pay for my own gas.

Overall, I drive a fuel efficient car, enjoy being alone and listening to music, and can be at home when I’m on call and do my own thing. As a local, I also know the area well so I can do my job efficiently and quickly. I can also practice freestyling to rap instrumentals. The downsides? I’m responsible for my damages, and one accident can wipe out a month of wages. This is compounded by inexperienced young drivers, drunk students, and poorly designed infrastructure. Also, in the presence of a delivery fee, students don’t pay tip all too well and I’m stiffed at least once every shift. Lastly, because deliveries average 30-40 minutes each, I’m not really making all too much more than $12, if at all.

Can’t complain though, I could be making $7.50 an hour. Side note-I wish I was a teenager in Seattle where the minimum wage is $15; I’d have a nice savings account before college.

Want to make my life easier? Tip in cash and write your address accurately, or I might turn on you like De Niro. (And yes, I was inspired to try this job by watching Taxi Driver)

taxi-driver-robert-de-niro

GRE’s, Career, and the Real World

Today I finally signed up for the GRE’s. Now my fall is looking like this:

1.Take GRE’s

2. Go to Career Fair

3. Do well in my 2 math classes

4. Help my best friend’s production company get off the ground

4. Apply to grad schools

5. Hopefully have a full time job offer or get accepted into a good school!

6. Regardless, go to London for winter break, celebrate, and maybe get a cool tattoo (don’t tell my mom)

asian man relaxing

You’d think graduating a year early would be less stressful, like this asian man relaxing.