Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Ask Stacy: Why can't my son find work?

He earned a master's degree in business but hasn't found a job after more than 2 years of looking. Lack of experience? Or something else?

By MSN Money Partner Jan 10, 2014 2:42PM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyThis week's question comes from the parents of an unemployed MBA.

Our son graduated with a master's degree in business. His undergrad degree was  political science and history. He has not found a job after 2 1/2 years because he does not have experience! No one will give him a chance or even an interview! He scored high but could not work due to the massive reading, writing during his master's. We are scared!
-- Gayle

Man reading job listings © Tetra Images, Getty ImagesI disagree with your assessment, Gayle. I don't think the failure of your son to find a job is because he lacks experience. That's simply not logical. Everyone who's ever had a job found their first one without experience.

So if a lack of experience isn't the problem, what is? 

There's no way to know for certain from the information you've provided, and odds are it's a combination of factors. But let's go over some potential problems and possible solutions.

He's not applying for the right job

Last year, I ran an ad for a video producer. I specifically asked those without the required five years' experience not to waste their time or mine by applying.

Result? Tons of applications from new grads.

Submit a thousand applications for jobs you're not qualified for and you'll get a thousand rejections.

A different story: Six years ago I hired a guy right out of college for $12 an hour. His degree wasn't related to this business and his job was grunt work. Today that guy is in charge of all technical aspects of this website. I won't say how much he's making now, but it's a heck of a lot more than $12 an hour.

The way to prevent rejection due to lack of experience is to apply for jobs that don't require it. They probably won't pay well, but that's OK. Create value for the company, then ask for more money. If that doesn't work -- if you can't add value or make your voice heard -- find a different job.

He's not applying at the right company

Small businesses like mine are often easier to get into than giant ones. If you're applying at IBM, there's a rigid vetting process that can't be deviated from. If you're applying here, all you have to do is convince me you can add value.

Smaller businesses may also offer broader responsibilities, which makes the job more interesting. Our small staff has input into virtually everything we do, from editorial content to website design. You won't find that at CNN or The New York Times.

As for advancement, a small staff means fewer layers of management and more opportunity for advancement, or at least recognition. At a business this size, no one can falsely take credit for your ideas.

He's not applying in the right industry

Money Talks News competes in two vastly different businesses. One is television news, where it's increasingly difficult to make money because, like newspapers and other traditional media, it's losing audience and becoming less and less profitable. The other is online publication, a business that's in its infancy and exploding in popularity.

Finding work in a shrinking industry is much harder than finding a job in one that's growing.

If I were looking for work today, I'd look for something related to the Internet. It's as much a game changer as electricity, cars, TV and refrigeration. And it's just getting started.

He's not interviewing well

There's plenty of information out there on proper interviewing: See posts like "Job interviewing: 8 things to do and 8 things to avoid" and "10 ways to ace your next job interview."

But don't stop with reading. Once you've learned the proper techniques, practice, practice, practice. Have someone pose as an employer and go through the entire process until it's second nature. Tape yourself doing it, then pick it apart and do it again.

There's a reason for the expression, "You only have one chance to make a first impression." From body language to dress to the tone you use and the words you speak, get it right.

He's not using all available resources

You can get training and advice for every facet of employment, including job leads, at your state's employment offices. Some offer seminars on everything from creating a resume to interviewing. They can also provide networking opportunities and a sympathetic ear.

You can find a state employment office directory here.

In addition to regular job search sites, there are also some specifically targeted toward recent grads.

Then there's networking -- a fancy term for a simple idea: talking to people.

While I've run lots of ads, my web guy is the only employee I've hired that way. The other full-time members of our team are people I've known personally or were recommended by someone I knew.

He's not casting a wide enough net

Sometimes getting a job means radically changing your life. For example, if you can't find work where you live, move.  This is not a bad thing. New locations offer new experiences, and new experiences make you more well-rounded. The best time to pull up stakes? When you're young and single.

So if you're not finding what you want where you want it, prepare yourself for a little adventure and broaden your horizons. Now more than at any time in history, people work worldwide.

Flexibility applies to more than just geography. Be willing to consider not just your chosen career, but any career. My degree was in accounting, but the last time I worked as an accountant was 1981.

He's not thinking outside the box

Suppose I said, "If you get a job at XYZ company within a month, I'll give you a hundred million dollars."

What would you do to get a job there? Answer: Anything.

You'd certainly find anyone you know who might have a friend at the company and ask for a hookup. But would you stop there? No way.

You'd use the Internet to find out everything you could about the company and the specific people doing the hiring. Then you'd use that information to get close to them. You'd find out what clubs they belong to and join them. You'd find out what kind of volunteer work they do and do it. You might even "accidentally" run into them at their favorite watering hole.

Heck, you might find out where the company president plays golf and slip a course employee $50 to make sure you were placed in his foursome.

The point is, when people say, "I've done everything I can," that's rarely true. Many people have used clever, imaginative and even bizarre ways to find work. (If you don't believe it, do a search for "weird ways to find work.") Will you always succeed? Nope. But you'll succeed more often than you will by doing nothing.

More on Money Talks News:

Jan 10, 2014 3:20PM
Any chance it was because he couldn't have figured this out on his own so his mommy had to ask the internet?
Jan 10, 2014 3:11PM
Any chance he has his masters and is only looking for jobs that start at 75k? 
Jan 10, 2014 3:33PM
kick him out of the basement and see how fast he gets a job!
Jan 10, 2014 3:39PM
I have the same degree and had no problems finding a job.  I also worked full time all through college and paid my way through school.  It is my thought that if you have to pay for school yourself you work harder because it is your money you are spending.  Also with the work experience, interviews went a lot easier.  My guess is this kid expects to have life served to him on a silver plater.
Jan 10, 2014 4:29PM
A son of a neighbor of ours was unemployed for a year and half after graduating with a geology degree.  I did not, however, wonder why this was the case.  I watched this young man grow up and his parents never encouraged him to work when he was in high school.  They would pay him to work around the house and yard because they did not want to deal with driving him to McDonalds or wherever he might have obtained a job.  He went through his college years never working and then expected a degree to magically open doors for him.  Parents, help your kids find real jobs as early as possible.  My daughter always had jobs:  in a deli, in a travel agency, as a summer receptionist,  as a server in spaghetti restaurant and that took her to a major national chain working as a hostess seating people.  Over several years and while in college she worked her way to the top of the "food chain" as a bartender. She made it through grad school in Molecular Biology while working at this chain. Today she is Molecular Geneticist with a prestigious company. She proved all her working life that she was willing to work and just did it. It took us juggling cars yes but the difference in her life is immeasurable. Kids need real resumes starting as early as possible to have a chance in life. 
Jan 10, 2014 3:38PM
everyone has to start at the bottom.
Jan 10, 2014 3:36PM
He's holding out for a management position with Cousin Eddie.
Jan 10, 2014 4:24PM

The problem is he wants Master's Degree Salary with Wet Behind the Ear experience.  Not a winning combination. 


Jan 10, 2014 3:18PM

Other points:

1) He didn't do well in school.

2) He didn't go to the right school.  Match book cover degree and no experience is not worth much.

3) He is not applying in the right areas.  North Dakota and numerous companies overseas are hiring.

4) His expectations for an entry level job are to high.  Intern, minimum wage, etc.  Gain experience.

5) He can't pass the background check.  Financial, drugs, activities and associations all matter.

Jan 10, 2014 3:43PM
Without experience he is now over qualified, as someone who has worked in MBA admissions I will tell you, we tell students it is best to get 5-6 years of work experience before starting a MBA program.  He should have considered an internship as a part of his MBA, most good programs offer them as an option.  Ok, and I can't believe he couldn't do ANYTHING to get experience while doing his MBA.  I worked while doing my Masters and currently I am enrolled in a Doctoral program (3.8 GPA), working a full time job and a part time job and I have a young family, so it CAN be done, it is all about priorities.  
Jan 10, 2014 3:14PM
Poly sci and history undergrad with a masters in business.  That's pretty much like having an associates in business with no experience.
Jan 10, 2014 3:30PM

Sounds like he doesn't want to start at the bottom and work up.  After the Air Force, I was able to find a job in my field because many people did not want to get their hands dirty.  I was an engine mechanic and motor vehicle mechanic.  The possibilities were there because I was able to work on many types of vehicles when I got out.  Trucks, cars, marine engines etc.  I started out as a HELPER then worked up the ladder to master mechanic.  I was also schooled in industrial maintenance and had welder certification papers.  Some people get degrees in things where  jobs aren't

paperclip designer etc.  I did have a supervisor job in a maintenance dept for a large corporation and found out that most of the office workers spent most of the time playing on the computer rather than doing work.  I think they all want to start at the top but that isn't likely to happen unless you are related to the big boss. 

Jan 10, 2014 4:06PM
He is not alone middle age and older workers can't find jobs either...They also have education.  No one wants to admit there are no real jobs.  
Jan 10, 2014 3:31PM
Take the MBA off the CV and accept a lessor position. Work from the inside.
Jan 10, 2014 3:30PM
Indeed, don't let the title and edu guide the job you want. Get the job you can and move from there. 2.5 years? Just what is he applying to? Most jobs that require experience will say so on the job requirements. Take a step away from that MBA pedestal and be willing to get down and work small at the beginning. Once you have experience, then by all means, ditch the first company and demand your (realistic) worth. Good luck. Job search is tough. I started looking and applying to jobs at the beginning of my last college semester, in Jan. I didn't get a job until the start of Sept. I did take lower pay and an hour commute because I couldn't find anything closer. He's young, he can move and get into better markets. Now that I have experience, I am planning on going after the bigger fishes.
Jan 10, 2014 3:28PM
agree with those who think he should have gotten work experience during summers, school holidays...and foregone the masters until he was working. also he should consider a sales job - car sales, whatever, business that sell products need salespeople, and it's a good way to see how things go in the real world. even starting as a sales clerk in a store belonging to a large franchise, can lead to upward mobility and management jobs down the line.
Jan 10, 2014 3:43PM

I would also say the son is absolutely NOT applying for any available job. Most likely he's being far too specific and expecting far more than being hired as a "grunt".

Some of the lucky ones (it's either luck or who you know) I'm sure will feel this suggestion is beneath them- but I personally know several "graduates" in all kinds of disciplines that have "stooped" to fast food or the food industry. It hasn't taken long to rise above "the fryers" or "dish room" into first shift management, into higher local management and a few that are willing to uproot end up in Corporate.

Yes, at first you WILL be working oddball hours and weekends, but prove your work ethic by being available and DOING, you can go far.

Do some research on the salary's of Service Industry's management tiers, you might be surprised.

Jan 10, 2014 3:49PM
Visible tattoos and piercings maybe? 

I'm personally not against such things, but if I have a customer service related business then I don't care if you have PhD's from Princeton, Yale & Harvard I won't risk deterring customers because an employee of mine looks like he lost a fight with a brightly painted barb wire fence.

Ultimately though the real problem is there just aren't any real jobs anymore...  All we do in this country is consume so unless you are selling 1200 calorie frozen coffee concoctions or handing some chicken nuggets out of a drive thru window (& don't forget the extra dipping sauces!) then there are really not that many jobs to be had in this country-- Food Service workers don't make a lot of money.

We don't manufacture much anymore, we don't produce anything and without those kinds of jobs our workers are relegated to moving other companies products around -- Forklift drivers and loaders in warehouses don't make a lot of money.

Advancement in technology has removed a lot of administration personnel and management jobs from all areas of the work force.   One person with a computer and some good software can do what 15-30 people or more used to have to oversee and there are fewer mistakes from human error, less theft due to less human contact and more profit overall.

Where am I going with all of this?  There are too damn many people in the world.  We have to stop breeding so much.  Not everyone needs a family of 3 or 4 or 5 kids.   Many of us don't need to replace ourselves at all, but the population of the world keeps increasing and with it we are depleting the resources available.  Not just fossil fuels, land & living spaces in addition to polluting the waters & air, but there aren't enough facilities and jobs to go around anymore with the end of the industrial revolution and the beginning of the technological one.   Robots can and will do what humans used to, but they do it better and without unions or payrolls.

One more thing I would like to add is that people with a good job currently tend to look at the rest of us with rose tinted glasses.  They feel that if they managed to make it happen with some tough times and hard work under their belt then everybody else can too with a certain amount of hard work, but that part of the American dream is no longer a reality.  

Remember: When your neighbor loses their job it is just a recession, when you lose yours it is a depression....

Jan 10, 2014 3:57PM
Probably thinks because he has that fancy degree he's too good to do any real work. College grads these days act as if they DESERVE six figure salaries to start. There are plenty of jobs out there. He's probably lazy too.
Jan 10, 2014 3:28PM
when he interviews have him wear a sombrero,grovel,speak broken english,and say si! senor... a lot
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.