Join Half a Million Waiters, Janitors, and Bartenders with College Degrees … Or Don’t

I have talked in the past about the elephant in the room that is student debt. If you partook in the student debt bubble and will be walking the stage for a diploma paid for with borrowed funds, you will quickly feel the pressure to get a job and begin servicing that debt.

And this is the point at which things get messy, particularly if you don’t know all the best options for kicking off your career.

Even if you are one of the fortunate who have secured a first job, it is just that your first job. In 2012, US employees aged 25-34 had a median tenure at their current position of just 3.2 years[1], which shows that finding new jobs is not only common practice it may be necessary[2]. Below, we’ll go over the wrong way to pay down your student loans, and then we will go over the right way to start a healthy career during any economy.

323,000 Waiters/Waitresses, 115,000 Janitors, and 83,000 Bartenders with College DegreesBloomberg, citing BLS data, has reported that over a half a million people who hold college degrees are currently waiting tables, tending bar, or vacuuming the floors. That’s a half million college graduates working jobs that don’t require a degree in these three occupations alone.

As of 2011, 54% of all bachelor’s degree holders under the age of 25 were unemployed or employed at a job not requiring a bachelors degree[3]. Seriously, I’m going to link to that again, more than 1,500,000 recent graduates were un- or underemployed in 2011 in the US alone.

Whether or not you have student loans, underemployment is not the answer to a languishing job market. Accepting underemployment through resignation of your ambition is the wrong way to initiate a healthy career.

A Childish Metaphor

If you go to a playground hoping to swing on a swing set and find the swings have for some reason been removed, what can you do?

Well you could do any number of things:

  1. You could sit in the sandbox and long for a new swing set to appear.
  2. You could do some research and find another park that still has a swing set.
  3. You could seek out materials and a sturdy tree limb to build a swing of your own.

I use a childish metaphor because it is fitting to the approach of so many looking to start their careers. Our half million friends employed at janitors and waitresses are literally choosing option 1 from this list. They are sitting down in the sandbox, getting damp moldy sandbox sand in their shorts, and hoping new jobs will materialize out of thin air.

Your future through door number 2 or 3 is so much brighter. Striking out from the playground in search of another extant swing set parallels innovative internationalization. And setting out to build a swing of your own parallels the labor intensive process of working to achieve your own vision of success via entrepreneurship.

Leaving the childish metaphor behind, you will see below just how you can go about improving your prospects with these ideas.

Internationalization, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation

If the job market you are searching doesn’t offer the opportunity you desire, you need to find and participate in a market that will.

Mark Manson over Post Masculine has put together a compelling case for why why young Americans should work overseas. Pop that link open in a new tab and remember to come back and read the article to completion. Got it? Good. I will reverberate an important point from Mark: the reasons “why young Americans should work overseas are practical and not ideological. This is not a liberal argument or a conservative argument; it’s a life argument.”

The barriers to internationalize are lower today than ever before. If you’re content resigning your future to the market shortcomings of wherever you happen to live at the present, you need to give yourself wake up slap to the face. You have access to markets all over the world that are booming right now. Your success is your responsibility. Start acting like it.

Entrepreneurship is an important alternative on the table in your quest to initiate a healthy career in the modern landscape. This is true both domestically as internationally. While US-based start-up incubators, such as Y Combinator, remain viable options, there is no reason to limit yourself by geography. Startup Chile is an incubator with a lot of great potential. They accept applicants of all nationalities and run 3 rounds of funding per year. The real kicker with Startup Chile is that companies selected for funding receive $40,000 USD in equity free seed capital. Yes, you heard that right, it is free money so what are you waiting for? Start taking action.

Innovation is another key pillar of creating career success today. Being able to think critically & solve problems is as important in your search for a career as it is in the actual day to day practice of a job you occupy. Both internationalization and entrepreneurship are ways to innovate your career search and launch a healthy career independent of gloom and doom over conditions of a certain market.

“Here’s the bottom line– if you’re facing an uphill battle for prospects and opportunities, get creative; don’t simply follow the same path that everyone else is taking. The world is a big place– stop limiting yourself by geography and start looking overseas for solutions.” – Simon Black

Don’t Come Crying to Me

You certainly can choose to ignore the evidence. You take can sit in the metaphorical sandbox; you take a job as a barista and scour the city for “grown up” jobs, only to be told over and over again that no one is hiring. You can remain optimistic when hearing news reports promising job growth is right around the corner. You can keep hoping for that mythical dream job to materialize out of thin air. That certainly is an option. But I can tell you it wont be pretty. And I can tell you not to come crying to me when it doesn’t pan out for you.

The wheels are in motion. How you will meet the challenge is up to you. It’s your decision: Join a half a million waiters, janitors, and bartenders with college degrees… Or don’t.

Until next time,

“You can ignore reality, but you can’t ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” – Ayn Rand


Brett Anderson is the author of Study Secrets. Since completing his Master’s in engineering in 2012, he has bypassed conventional career options to incite curiosity in the world around him.

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One Response to Join Half a Million Waiters, Janitors, and Bartenders with College Degrees … Or Don’t

  1. Pingback: 2013 May Quotes : Brett Anderson

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