Job advice in a struggling economy

Every year, Utah State University graduates thousands of students into the work force. Filled with dreams of grandeur, these new Aggie alumni leave the University with a little more knowledge of their chosen field of expertise than they had when they were freshmen. They leave with a little more resistance to cold weather after trudging the thousand or so steps on Old Main Hill for four or more Januaries. They leave, resumes in hand, with a little more love for the spot where the sagebrush grows. But in 2009, as these bright young scholars try to join the ranks of America’s labor force, they find that many employers have been tightening their belts and are not prepared to bring any new employees on board. Some graduates may find their entire industry is collapsing. Some find their field has evolved so quickly that the emphasis of study in school is an ancient ancestor to the modern job description for their major. It is to these unfortunate unemployed graduates I offer some practical advice. May you be able to use it to turn your inevitable demise into, at least, a salvageable career. As unemployment in the United States creeps ever closer to 10 percent, you’re going to need all the help you can get. To the accountants: There’s not much to account for right now. As everyone’s dollars become fewer, self-accounting becomes easier and you’re out of work. You’ve got a couple of options here. You can sabotage childrens’ math classes by making up false numbers and donating millions of faulty calculators (you can call them the TI-eighty-ten series), or you can do everything in your power to devalue the dollar, thereby increasing the amount of dollars in the average Joe’s piggy bank without really increasing his net worth. This option is easier, because the Federal Reserve is doing a fine job of it already. To the agriculture majors: It’s time to get creative. I don’t’ just mean genetically altering crops to make them bigger or more resistant to predatory insects. I mean serious experimental cross-breeding. I want to see a common grass crossed with the vanilla plant. I want to taste a zucchini crossed with a lollipop plant. And how about figuring out a way to have a breakfast banana that tastes like bacon? That’s a product with income potential. To the biologists: I think most of you are going to be busy helping the agriculturalists with that pig-flavored banana. To art and music majors: You knew what you were getting yourselves into. There were no jobs in your field before the recession. You can’t expect me to help you get a job now. To the business majors: You’re the ones who are going to have to pull us out of this economic downturn. It was the entrepreneurial businessmen who built this great country. Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Bill Gates and Sam Walton. You’re next. Think lemonade stand, but bigger. The lemonade stand has been done before. America needs some fresh ideas. Grapefruit juice stand? To the chemists: Every once in a while, scientists discover a new element to be added to our periodic table of elements. If you can’t get a job right out of college, head for the hills and start turning over rocks. Find the element that will revolutionize your field and create jobs in chemistry. And I’m not talking about one of those silly elements that basically acts as a periodic table placeholder (What have you done for me lately, praseodymium?). I want something fun, new and exciting. See if you can find levitanium — a very light gas that, when ingested, causes humans to float for several hours. To the computer scientists: Stop building so many robots to do everyone else’s jobs! Yes, it’s going to give you some job security for a while when you’re the one everyone looks to for maintenance on the robots, but what happens when your beloved ‘bots get promoted to the position you were vying for? You think they’re going to remember how you lovingly debugged their central processing units? No. It’ll just be another round of corporate executives awarding themselves with big fat bonuses. But this time it’ll be robo-CEOs. To the elementary education majors: increasing your customers means increasing jobs. Your customers are children. Let’s do the math. More children equals more jobs. Now go create more children. To the French, Spanish, German, Chinese, etc. majors: congratulations! You have learned a skill that will broaden your job opportunities. You could sign on at a German bakery. You could get cleanup duty at a Spanish bullfighting arena. You could be a ranch hand in Colombia, growing an awful lot of who-knows-what. To the journalists: I actually happen to know a little about this one as it’s my area of study. The Internet has changed journalism in one major way: people get their news there for free, so they don’t have to buy your paper/watch your news program. The easy fix to this would be to break the Internet. Just find the main plug and unplug it. I think they keep it in former Vice President Al Gore’s estate in Nashville. Ask for a tour, and make it look like an accident. To the lawyers: If everyone takes my advice on these career suggestions, you should be perfectly safe. I’m sure there will be plenty of lawsuits over the side effects of the bacon banana, patents to work on for levitanium products, and there’s always going to be someone who will sue because they spilled the grapefruit juice on themselves and it burned them. To the mathematicians: After we get past the Pythagorean theorem, most of the populace has no idea what you’re doing anyway. You just have to keep faking us out by pretending what you do is essential to the well-being and survival of the human race. One thing to keep in mind, though, is to be a little more careful when you’re naming your new math. We fell for imaginary numbers, but that was a bold move. Making up numbers and actually calling them imaginary? Somewhere, there are some mathematicians in a closed room laughing their heads off. To the photographers: some of the most stirring photos in history came during times when the workforce was changing. The great depression, picketing lines, women in the factories during World War II … keep your batteries charged, your memory cards clear and get ready for the next round. And if you don’t get the shot you wanted, you have an advantage over the depression-era photographers — Photoshop. To the physicists: An object at rest will stay at rest. If Newton was right, it sounds like our economy is going to need a big kinetic push to get out of its resting state. See if you can work with the engineers to do something about that. In short, this is not a time for panic. This is a time of opportunity. Keep your minds open and your skills sharp and you just don’t know what will fall into your lap. Also, about things falling into your lap, you might want to keep an eye on the sky — levitanium wears off after about 45 minutes.

<em>Note: This story was submitted to CacheValleyDaily by a student in Utah State University’s Journalism Department. One of the courses offered in the department, “Beyond the Inverted Pyramid,” is an advanced feature writing class that emphasizes writing with detail and depth. This article was written for that class.</em>

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