Students graduating from college this spring are entering perhaps the toughest, most uncertain job market in generations. In this series, we meet recent grads, who share the frustrations and fears they face as they set out in search of work.
Christopher Self has spent the past six years working long days and nights as a truck driver.
It was supposed to be his fallback job, a steppingstone toward his real goal of working for a corporation.
"I had my first business when I was about 4 years old running a flea market in my grandma's front yard selling her stuff, low overhead cost, you know," he recalls, laughing.
Self just completed a degree in business administration at National American University, a for-profit college in Rapid City, S.D. The 28-year-old Air Force veteran worked his way through college in less than four years, driving trucks to pay his way. He also had financial help from the military.
He has no student debt, which puts him in a better position than most college graduates these days.
A Desire To Put His Degree To Good Use
But Self is still struggling to find work that will put his degree to good use.
"The military helped me out with this degree," Self says. "So, essentially the money is coming from the taxpayers, and I really don't want to let it go to waste."
Since graduating in March, Self has applied for about 75 jobs.
He says he's received 75 rejections.
He's doing his best to not let it get him down, but that can be hard.
"There was one very large firm that would be my ultimate dream job," Self says. "I applied to it Thursday, I believe. Monday morning, before 8 a.m., I already had the rejection letter, and that one was the biggest crush."
Keeping A Positive Outlook
Peggy Schlechter, the dean of students at National American University, says graduates need to keep a positive outlook. But she also recognizes that's easier said than done.
"I think when you're looking at this economy and thinking, 'It might be longer now before I find something,' boy that really makes it tough," Schlechter says.
Self doesn't want to be a victim of economic circumstance. He says he's not resting on his laurels and just waiting for a job to find him. But he's struggling to stay positive.
"It's just a bigger hill to climb," Self says.
He may struggle for a while. The economy is improving, but it could take years for the labor market to fully recover. And while the average job search used to take three months, economists say it's now closer to a year.