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More school not always the answer for jobless
Getting a graduate degree may not further your chances of finding a job. - photo by Stock photo

A struggling economy has left many people wondering when the job market will rebound. With an unpredictable job market, some out-of-work professionals and current students are wondering if obtaining an advanced degree is their best chance to stand out in a crowded job market.

Around two million students earn their degrees each year, adding to an already crowded pool of people looking for work. Although it's rarely easy for recent grads to find a job immediately after college, historically, a degree has eventually helped men and women find work. Today, things are not so certain. Recent college graduates are competing with older people who have already accumulated job experience. Knowing that a good salary may not be imminent and that the student loan repayment period begins shortly after graduation, some students think it is best to weather a recession by staying in school, while unemployed professionals with experience might feel that going back to school is their best chance for finding a new job.

According to Penelope Trunk, a career advice specialist and blogger, returning to school or continuing for a graduate degree isn't the best answer to the recession. Not only does it postpone the inevitable, but it also causes you to accrue more school debt that will have to be repaid. Furthermore, statistics indicate that only half of the jobs landed by new graduates even require a college degree. Who you know rather than which school you attended can be the deciding factor in today's economy.

Another troubling factor is that the lack of jobs is spreading into fields that have long been considered stable. Recent law school graduates, for example, are entering the worst job climate for lawyers in years. Also, starting salaries for recent law grads have fallen about 20 percent in the last three years.

If school isn't the answer for this economy, then what is? There are some steps to take to foster higher job prospects.

• Network. Who you know might matter as much as what you know. Go to as many job fairs, career networking parties or meetings with people in your field as possible. Take notes and get names and contact information of people who might be able to recommend you for a position or provide leads. In-person networking, as well as networking through social media sites like LinkedIn, can help you get your name out to the masses and open up opportunities.

• Learn by doing. Some people mistakenly believe that everything they need to know to be successful in a job comes from the classroom. But many professionals learn more when they get their hands dirty. Find out if you can intern or volunteer at a business to learn the ropes. While it may not earn you a salary, an opportunity like this is certainly giving you something valuable — experience that may help set you apart from another applicant with no experience.

• Accept a job, even if it's not your dream job. Simply finding work is an accomplishment, even if the job is not what you had imagined. All jobs give people the opportunity to learn skills, and you may learn some skills that are relevant in the field of work in which you hope to eventually earn a living. Holding out for your "dream job" may cause you to miss out on viable opportunities. Remember, a salary is nothing to scoff at during a recession.

• Assess the benefits of schooling. If you aren't hoping to enter a field that requires a graduate degree, then don't enter graduate school just because you can't find a job. Also, some careers, such as university teaching, are very hard to come by because they are passed down or given to people who are known among the faculty. School shouldn't be looked at as a safe haven. It's a very expensive way to put off entering a crowded job market.

• Choose the right major. For those who have not yet graduated, there still may be time to gear your major toward careers that have better opportunities than others. Research recession-proof careers and choose one that suits you and your interests.

A turbulent economy is leaving many people wondering if it is better to ride out the storm in graduate school. But an advanced degree does not necessarily result in better employment prospects. 

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