Archive for April, 2010


The New-Graduate Paradox

Getting your first job out of college is extremely difficult and frustrating. But, its up to you to differentiate yourself from other candidates and stand out in a crowd of hungry job seekers.

Being a recent-college graduate, I have discovered there is a new-graduate paradox.

No employer will hire you without experience, but you can’t get experience without getting hired. Well that’s just wonderful since I myself am a recent college graduate and have worked during college in retail, but have yet to get a “real” full-time job relevant to my economics degree.

During my job search, I have discovered that entry-level doesn’t mean having a college degree and little experience.

Entry level really means at least 1 to 2 years prior relevant work experience when you read the whole description. How many college graduates really have at least 1 year relevant work experience to the jobs they seek out?

Entry-level jobs no longer mean what they used to. Employers are taking advantage of the current economic downturn and adding new requirements (additional experience) to entry-level jobs. Two years ago, it seemed that there was a high demand for entry-level workers right out of college. There was a huge market for recent graduates. Employers hired many full-time employees straight out of college. Two years ago the economy was improving and unemployment was low. But then the housing bubble burst, the financial markets began to fail and for those of us graduating in 2009 into the present got screwed over.

Reasons for the New-Graduate Paradox:

  • High unemployment. The combination of layoffs, financial market crashes and foreclosures flood the job market with experienced workers that are unemployed or looking for a higher paying job. Recent graduates have little chance of getting hired when the market is full with workers who have racked up many years of experience. Basically there is less demand for young unexperienced workers in today’s job market.
  • Employers think experts get the job done. Employers don’t want to “take a chance” on new and creative minds.

Solutions:

  • Employers should take advantage of unexperienced workers. New-graduates are willing to work longer hours for less money than experienced workers. Employees that have many years of experience racked up also have bills to pay, mortgages, kids and additional responsibilities that demand higher incomes. Recent-graduates have student loans, but little variable costs. Employers should hire recent graduates because they are enthusiastic about starting their career, will bring new insights to the job and will accept less in compensation.
  • Get an internship. Even though internships typically don’t typically last longer than 6 months, it will give you some great on-the-job experience and show that you are worth the money. Be indispensable and turn your internship into a full-time paid position. If you show your ambition, hard work ethic and creative ideas during your internship, chances are they won’t let you go.
  • Volunteer. You won’t get paid, but you will get some hands on experience and add skills to your resume. Plus, your ambition and dedication to work for free shows you are a self-starter and will be a valuable employee.
  • Blog or make your own website. Show off your writing skills and get blogging. Sharing your ideas and creating a discussion is a great way to use the skills you learned in college. Don’t let all those years in school go to waste. Keep up your professional writing skills and blog in your spare time. If you are more of a technical person, make your own website to include in your portfolio. Don’t know what type of website to design? Advertise your skills on Twitter or social networking sites and start a contest to design a free website for some very lucky person and build your portfolio.
  • Have a business degree? Make a mock business plan. After graduation you can either use what you learned during all those years or lose it. My advice: use your writing, analytical and creative skills to draft a business plan for an existing business or one you create yourself. This is a great way to show your ambition and take action. Employers will love your ambition and self-motivation. Who knows? Maybe showing them who you are and what you are capable of will get you a job. It could happen, so go for it!

My Journey:

Since there’s this new-graduate paradox, I am currently on the job search looking for the right opportunity to come my way. So I’m taking my own advice. I started a blog. I volunteer as a data ninja with People for Puget Sound (environmental non-profit) and I’m applying for internships to gain hands-on experience. I’m also in brainstorming ideas for my business plan. Wish me luck!

Hope this post helped  and inspired those recent college and unemployed graduates out there.

What’s your story? How did you land your first job? Any other advice for recent college grads to gain experience? Comments and discussion are always welcome!

How Much is Enough?

For many years we have all heard about the threat of peak oil, energy security, climate change and pollution.

These global problems are just symptoms of a larger, overshadowing problem and all the symptoms can be solved with one solution.

The Overshadowing Problem:  Materialism and Conspicuous Consumption in America

We have become obsessed with lavish spending on goods and services acquired mainly for the purpose of displaying wealth and status. But material things do not bring anyone happiness in the long run. We should rediscover that happiness doesn’t come from what you own, but what you do.

The Solution: Minimalism

Not to the extreme meaning of the word, just living within your means. Create a lifestyle that brings you happiness and purpose. Maintain a life where satisfaction and success are measured by the things you do, not what you own. Between the combination of credit cards, conspicuous consumption and the accessibility of home loans, we have created the idea that happiness and success come from material things. But the truth is, it doesn’t.

Think about all the things we buy that give us instant satisfaction, but these things do not contribute to our happiness in the long run.

Former president Jimmy Carter once said during his ‘Crisis of Confidence’ speech in 1979, “Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns.”

Effects of Minimalism:

  • Energy and Resource Conservation. If we only demand and buy goods that improve our standard of living and quality of life, less energy and resources will be used in the production process. If we bought what we needed and not what we wanted, energy would be conserved. This would have a huge impact on the energy crisis, energy security and climate change. Resource conservation can directly reduce deforestation and depletion of natural resources.
  • Address Climate Change. With less energy and resources used in the production of goods, carbon emissions will decrease.
  • Switch from Manufacturing to Services. Some might suggest that with less manufacturing, jobs will be lost. I propose that jobs in manufacturing switch to the service and technology industries. Yes, people in manufacturing will loose their jobs, but training programs and placement should be provided in the switch to technology and service industries. Economists call this restructuring of the economy creative destruction. Restructuring of the economy will occur and the economy will be stronger and robust in the long run. Careers will be created to solve today’s problems and discover innovative solutions. These workers will be extremely valuable and will provide a new wave of indispensable workers in America.
  • Waste Reduction. If we consume what we need instead of what we want, fewer goods will be produced and ultimately less waste will be produced. We can significantly reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, water bodies and the environment.

Why should you care?

Be part of the solution, not the problem. Think about your lifestyle and what makes you happy.

Is it material things or spending time with family and helping others?

What are you contributing to your neighborhood, city, nation and world?

My Advice:

  • Do what makes you happy. Volunteer, cook with your family, write a book, start a blog.
  • Consume what you need, not what you want. Buy things that improve the quality of your life, not just instant satisfaction from material things.
  • Have a purpose. Create a life that helps others, the environment and reap the benefits of happiness and satisfaction throughout your life.

Many of us know eating fresh fruits, vegetables and staying away from processed fatty foods are part of a healthy lifestyle. So why do Americans maintain unhealthy eating habits?

People make choices based on their preferences and typically select the choice that derives the highest amount of satisfaction. Economists call this satisfaction utility. If we assume all people are rational, then people will select the choice that maximizes utility. When it comes to food, its hard to give up the cheeseburger for a healthy alternative.

Let’s face it. Fatty, salty and sugar filled foods just taste better. Our taste buds have developed over many decades to crave the fat, salt and sugar in our diet. Since we enjoyed it so much and it gave us instant satisfaction, unhealthy yet tasty food became the center of our diets.

Fast food is well…fast and easy. Today Americans work longer hours and have little time to prepare and cook food. So the simple solution is to eat processed and packaged food. For many of us, time is money. We sacrifice maintaining healthy diets for quick and easy meals. Sometimes these meals come in the form of a drive-up window or a frozen pizza.

Low quality processed food is cheaper. Buying poor quality processed food costs less money than buying fresh produce. Less time is spent on food preparation and cooking.

With these reasons, its no surprise why Americans have unhealthy eating habits.

But eating processed and unhealthy foods have huge costs. There is a tradeoff between eating unhealthy foods and adverse health effects that range from diabetes to cancer.

Here are the Stats:

According to a new study, mortality from obesity eventually “may result in a decline in future life expectancy.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 18 % of teenagers are overweight.

Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight adults.

The percentages jump significantly higher for adults.

According to the CDC, 67 % of adults are overweight or obese.

Ultimately, the food choices we make every day are leading to adverse health effects and eventually decreasing life expectancy. For the first time, parents may have higher life expectancies than their children if the obesity trend continues.

These stats signify the immediate need for a food revolution to not only eat healthy foods but to save lives.

Jamie Oliver has started the food revolution to educate and Americans about food and cooking. The first step in the food revolution is to serve healthy and unprocessed foods at all schools in America.

Sign the petition to keep processed foods out of America’s schools.

Food Revolution Solutions:

Where does your food come from? Many people, including myself cannot always answer this question. Knowing where our food comes from is both informational and will lead to healthier eating habits. People are usually afraid of things, ideas and foods that are unfamiliar. If Americans grew some of their own produce or at least knew where it came from and how it was produced, we would most likely eat better quality food and fresh produce.

If we were more connected with our food, we would appreciate the process and environmental systems that are involved with food production. We would have a greater appreciation for the food we eat and the environment.

The potential positive side effects of the food revolution might possibly be renewed environmentalism in America.

Become a chef. Cooking your own meals is healthy for your whole family and usually saves money in the long run. Many processed and prepared meals at the grocery store cost a lot more than making it at home. For example, ever seen the frozen pasta dishes in the freezer isle. You can make the same pasta and other dishes at home for a fraction of the cost, calories and fat. Cooking Light Magazine shares recipes that feed 4 for under 10$.

According to Jamie Oliver, “Switching from processed to fresh food will not only make you feel better but it will add years to your life.”

For those of you reading this, I urge you to take a second look at the food you eat. Next time at the grocery store take the time to choose unprocessed and healthy foods. Make your first stop the produce section. Read ingredient labels.

Rediscover food culture. Many Americans do not associate dinner and food with spending time with loved ones. We are a country of immigrants and behind every family is a history of food culture. If we value family time then preparing, cooking and sharing dinner with family could rediscover our unique food culture.

This weekend take the time to cook your own meals and eat them at the table with your family. Don’t know what to cook? Cooking Light has 20 easy recipes that take 20 minutes or less to make. So what are you waiting for? Get cooking!

Bright Future in Kanji

Are you currently unemployed or recently graduated from college but have not found a job yet? Then this post is for you! For those of us (including myself) who are just starting a career, this is the first time in our lives that we have no obligations. Hence, no more school or classes to attend. We are completely free to make our own decisions about what we do every day. This situation may be overwhelming, frustrating or exhilarating to you. This blog post will help you think about your unemployment economically and enable you to make informed decisions. Here are some key points to keep in mind while you are looking for your next job, changing careers or just enjoying the time between college life and entering the adult world of full-time employment.

First of all, time is scarce. Use your time, a scarce resource in the most productive and effective way. Spend your time in a way that either gives you the most satisfaction or minimizes the costs of the chosen action. Whether you get the most satisfaction from writing a blog post (like myself), reading a book, applying for jobs or catching up with friends, keep in mind that there are only 24 hours in each day. Use them wisely.

Tradeoffs. Every decision you make to choose an action involves an opportunity cost. Every time you choose to take action and make a decision, you are giving up the opportunity to do something else. Keep tradeoffs in mind when you make important decisions about the choices you make. For example, every time you apply for a mediocre job that you don’t exactly like, you are giving up the opportunity to search for another job. Be smart about the jobs you apply for and the ones that you let go.

Maximize satisfaction and net benefits. Each person has a difference preferences for the types of careers or jobs they want to pursue. If you don’t know what career path to pursue, take some time and do your research.   Choose the career path that gives you the highest amount of satisfaction; maximize net utility. If you choose the career that maximizes your overall utility and gives you the highest net benefits, 30 years from now you will be thankful you made that choice.

Invest in yourself. Every day take the time to do something that makes you happy. Ultimately if you invest in yourself it will pay off. You will be inspired and will make a good impression during the next job interview and land the job. During your career if you invest in yourself, you will increase productivity, happiness and overall be a valuable employee.

Below are a few ideas to invest in yourself:

Read a book.

Start a blog

Volunteer

Find a new hobby or redevelop your love for a past hobby

Comments and discussion are welcome!

On Friday April 16th, Western Washington University’s Economics Association will be hosting a comedy show featuring Yoram Bauman, the world’s first and only stand-up economist. If you want to learn more check out his website at www.standupeconomist.com.

Last year during my environmental economics course at Western Washington University, I had the opportunity to attend Bauman’s comedy show. If you enjoy economics and comedy, I truly recommend attending the show, but if you can’t watch this video instead. Enjoy!

When: Friday April 16th 8pm
Where: Western Washington University (Bellingham, WA) CF 115
Why: It’s FREE! Attend the show to maximize your utility while minimizing costs.