My name is Dylan Alford. In mid-2011, I was having lunch with an older colleague who said that his 23-year-old daughter had recently moved back home after trying for about a year to get her first real job after college. She was working – as a waitress – but couldn’t realistically make enough to live on her own. He went on to tell about several of his daughter’s friends who were in a similar boat.
And they’re not the only ones adrift on this sea of disappointment. More than 44% of college graduates under age 25 are either not working at all or working in jobs that don’t require a college degree. Of the 22% of recent grads working jobs that don’t require a degree, most are in service industry jobs like waitressing, bartending or retail, and they’re earning less than $16,000 a year – almost $11,000 a year less than their peers who have found work that requires a degree.
It’s easy to see why my friend’s daughter and her peers are struggling. With the official unemployment rate hovering between 8% and 10% nationally – and much higher in some local areas – it’s tough for anybody to find a job. Even people with work experience spend months looking for work in their fields. For the average recent grad, with little to no work experience, the challenge is even bigger.
But I know that there are more opportunities out there for a recent grad – if you’re only willing to open your mind and think beyond your comfort zone. You don’t have to settle for waitressing or bartending if you don’t want to.
That’s why I created the Recent Grads Only Mission:
To help 1,000 recent grads get a good job and broaden their horizons by showing them how to work overseas.
I fully realize that heading abroad to work isn’t for everyone. I also know that taking the leap and going to work abroad changed my life. It opened up opportunities I would not have had at home and helped me gain the kind of valuable skills and experience that have helped me succeed.
It’s not that there’s anything special about me. I’m just an average guy, of average intelligence (and probably below-average looks). I didn’t go to an Ivy League school or have any special connections. I got a liberal arts degree. And that means that anybody, provided you have a four-year university degree (in any major) and speak English as your native language, can do what I did.
Back in 1997, as I was finishing up my BA in English with a minor in journalism, I started job hunting. The trouble was, I didn’t really know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was applying for newspaper reporting or copy-editing jobs, marketing jobs, jobs at publishing companies – anything that I thought “fit” my major. And I wasn’t getting anywhere.
Finally, I sat down and made a list – not of jobs I wanted to focus on – but the kinds of attributes I wanted in my first job. My list included attributes like, “opportunities to work with and meet interesting people; opportunities to travel, maybe even live overseas; ability make a good income and increase my income consistently.” Then I started talking with people I knew about what kinds of jobs might put me in a position to get what I wanted.
When I showed my list to a college roommate who was a couple years older than me he said, “Teaching English in South Korea can give you all those things. There are a few downsides and pitfalls to watch out for.” He then filled me in on those pitfalls and we talked through what kinds of people “made it” as teachers in Korea and who struggled. Ultimately, it sounded like something that I wanted to try.
I leapt in with both feet – and never looked back. With my friend’s help I put together a plan for finding a teaching job. I got on a plane to Seoul and started my adventure. Seven years later I returned to the U.S. with a nice chunk of money in the bank and a pretty impressive resume with lots of valuable international experience. Within a month of landing in the states I had a good-paying marketing job at a midsized financial services company.
I believe the same kind of opportunity, to start working right away at a good paying job (that actually requires a college degree) and to build a resume that sets you apart from your peers is still possible for the recent grad. You just have to be willing to look beyond your comfort zone do something bold.
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