What Advice Do Economists Offer Recent Grads? Resources

Every year, right around graduation time, everybody has advice for young people getting ready to enter the workforce. If most everyone is well intentioned, not everyone knows that they’re talking about. Luckily, for their recent post “Economists Offer These 10 Career Tips for Today’s Graduates,” the folks at Forbes talked to real experts who know what’s what when it comes to America’s employment outlook.

The piece opens with some good news. “Be grateful you’re graduating now” is No. 1 on the list, since this year’s grads are “entering the best job market in about a decade,” according to Nariman Behravesh, a chief economist at Massachusetts firm IHS Inc.

Of course, just because the economy is adding a bunch of jobs, it doesn’t mean they’re being created where you live. No. 2: “Pack up and go,” or rather, be willing to move. Joblessness is less than 4 percent in North Dakota…

Don’t really feel like moving to North Dakota? You might not be there long. The next item on the list is “Don’t be a lifer.” There’s value to “job-hopping,” and it’s possible to move around a little without compromising your loyalty or reliability.

That’s if you decide to jump right into the workforce. According to Diane Swonk, a chief economist at Chicago’s Mesirow Financial Holdings Inc., it pays to attend grad school if you have the means. Advanced degrees will likely earn you more money once you land your first job, and these days, Swonk says, they’re becoming more and more of a must.

Speaking of education, “learn to code” is next on the Forbes list of advice for grads. By knowing at least the basics of computer programming, you’ll make yourself more marketable, and in 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, computer and information research scientists had a median salary of $102,190.

Even if you don’t tackle coding or grad school, keep on learning. That’s the next tip, and it’s a good one, as job roles change, and people move around a lot. It’s likely you’ll need new skills as your career progresses, and even if you’re not lucky enough to work for a firm that pays for grad school, there are other ways to bolster your knowledge base.

The ability to learn and grow is what separates you from a machine, and on that front, the next tip is to avoid jobs robots will soon be able to accomplish. These include “routine information-processing work and routine manual jobs, from basic financial analysis and routine legal work, to bookkeeping and middle-management,” according to MIT econ professor Erik Brynjolfsson.

Next up on the list: “Remember that practicality pays.” This means considering jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) fields, as they’ve been shown to offer the highest starting salaries over the last four years. Then again, tip No. 9 is to “brush up on your people skills,” since gigs that require emotional intelligence, like nursing and teaching, will likely never be done by machines.

Lastly, Ethan Harris, co-head of global economics research at Bank of America Corp., advises grads to “slum it” if necessary and take jobs that begin as internships. “The hope,” he says, “is that as the labor market improves, the market moves back into balance with more paid entry-level jobs.”


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