Advice to Graduates in the Age of Income Inequality

06/23/2015 03:47 pm ET | Updated Jun 19, 2016

Congratulations graduate! You tossed your cap into the air, you celebrated like a champion, you are slowly emerging from your hangover, and you are beginning to wonder: What the hell am I gonna do now?

Well, maybe you should go back and celebrate some more to avoid thinking about it. I'm sorry to say, but the reality of what you are about to face is not a pretty picture.

You see, at no fault of your own, you are commencing your adult life at a time of drastic income inequality in our society. The vast middle class has been squeezed and marginalized. Many career jobs that previously offered graduates like you a secure future with financial stability and plenty of free time to enjoy other pursuits in life have since been hollowed-out. These jobs no longer pay comfortable wages, they no longer provide pensions for long-term security, and they now require long hours of stressful work that blocks-out the sunshine in your life.


Yeah, I know. It sucks.

So what are you supposed to do? Just give-up before you even start?

No. Don't give-up. Never give-up. This is your life! It's like you've been tossed onto a surfboard and caught a wave, and you have only one shot at riding this wave of life and then it's all over. So hey, you might as well give it a whirl, do your best, see what you can do, and have some fun with it.

Now, we know that our current society of income inequality is terribly unfair, but the upside is that if you can land in the top 1%, then you're golden. Life is so much easier if you have financial security. Unfortunately, however, financial security has been pulled away from most people in the middle class so now the odds are unfairly stacked against you.

But maybe it's worth a try at attempting to fling yourself onto a track that can lead to the wealthy 1%. Utilize any connections that your family or friends might have to the wealthy and powerful. Put the word out that you are looking for an entry-level position, that you are ready and raring to go, and that you are willing to do anything and everything.

Or maybe try to test-score yourself into the fast lane. If you could pull a big score on one of the standardized admissions tests for graduate school or law school, this could be a magic ticket. If you could score in the top 10% or so, this could lead to admission into a big-name school, and from there you could glide right into a top job. Pick-up a prep book that includes sample tests and see how you fare.

You could also try the ol' shot-in-the-dark approach and lob in applications to your dream employers, like your favorite magazines, Hollywood movie studios, television networks, NFL football teams, and your federal and state senators and congresspersons.

But the sad truth is that without some sort of an advantage, typically through dumb luck, it is nearly impossible to break into the upper 1%.

So where does this leave you?

Well, it pretty much leaves you right along with a whole lot of other people, smack dab in the 99% and forced into an unnecessary struggle. A more fair society would offer plenty of opportunities for financial security to you and everyone else in your situation, but sadly, this is not the state of our society in this day and age. It is rather discouraging. So the next step is on to a traditional job search of checking postings on job sites and classified ads and hoping that you can land something that is at least halfway decent.

One positive element to keep in mind is that your first job need not be your only job. You are not locking yourself into it forever. In fact, you should think of your first job more as a stepping stone to a better job. Even if your first job falls far short of being your ideal job, that's okay.

You will learn so much from your first job, and this is the most important aspect. You can then take what you learn and move onward and upward. And your second job may well be easier to land than your first job because it is often easier to find a new job when you are employed in a current job. So bear in mind that this is only the beginning for you, and that if you keep growing and expanding yourself as a human being, you will eventually find your way to a decent job.

Actually, there is another thing you could do. If you find yourself frustrated by the unfairness of our current society and the lack of opportunities for the 99%, then you could roll-up your sleeves, jump in, and get involved to change it. You could help improve society so that future graduates like yourself need not face the same struggles. In an age of income inequality, maybe the most important job is to work against income inequality.

There are many organizations all across this nation that are trying to improve our society and that welcome enthusiastic participation. The "Amazing Organizations" list at offers a great list, but simple Google searches like "list of social change organizations" return many great leads as well. Even if you begin on a voluntary basis, it is a wonderful opportunity to learn about what is going on, grow as a person, meet some new and inspirational people, and make a difference in the lives of others. You can engage in activities that are actually meaningful and rewarding, and who knows where this might lead you personally.

It may just be the most enriching job you'll ever have.