I hate to be the one to break this to you, but the job market is pretty crappy right now. But before you grab your pitchforks in the wake of a national unemployment rate hovering at (gasp) 10 percent -- let me remind you that the Bureau of Labor Stats says unemployment for 16-to-24 year olds is at 19 percent. For those of you keeping score at home, that's the highest percentage in recorded history.
Now, some of you will read this and Google the nearest grad school. Others will polish your resume for fall -- hunting season in the corporate world -- and brace yourself for a double-wide. (Cubicle, that is.)
And some of you will develop a side hustle.
Side hustles used to sprout from an entrepreneurial passion. We've all heard stories of the widget-maker with a dream who hits it big. But more often these days, they come as a result of economic necessity.
Regardless of your driver, it's never been easier -- or cheaper -- to get started. All you need is a good idea, a good computer, and a good coffee shop that won't kick you out after one latte in five hours. (If you really want to be successful, you'll also need an unearthly amount of faith and blind ambition, but hey, at least you won't have to sell your plasma anymore.)
I know I'm making this sound simple. As an entrepreneur myself, I can tell you first-hand that it's not. Of course, being one of the 1 million (and counting) unemployed graduates in the US isn't exactly Disney World either.
Hey Gen Y, still feel "entitled?"
"The 'work hard, get good grades and go to college to get a job' mantra is dead," says twenty-something self-confessed hustler Scott Gerber, author of Never Get a "Real" Job: How To Dump Your Boss, Build a Business and Not Go Broke (Wiley, December 2010). Gerber says nearly 80 percent of recent college grads looking for jobs in 2009 had difficulty finding one.
So here's the deal: You are on the cusp of a truly defining moment. That is, if the current trend holds, you will become the most unemployed generation in recent times -- OR the most entrepreneurial ever.
Do you see the patterns forming?
If you are destined to become the most self-accountable cohort in human history, what better time to get started then right now? You don't need to wait until you're out in "the real world" to take full responsibility for your success. "The real world" is bullshit anyway. It's a myth. You're living in the real world now. A piece of cardstock with a seal on it really isn't going to change that much.
So students -- start hustling. Photography, dance lessons, web design, editing, baking, baby sitting... whatever. Find something (legal) that will allow you to build a business and see where it goes. At best, you'll earn enough to stay afloat for the long haul. At worst, your initiative will help you land a 'traditional' job post-graduation. Of course, by then the double-wide may not look so hot after all.
Follow Emily Bennington on Twitter: www.twitter.com/EmilyBennington