For Graduates, These Are the Good Old Days

Don Silver is a personal finance writer and author of eight books including "Cookin' the Book$: Say Pasta La Vista to Corporate Accounting Tricks and Fraud" (2003, Adams-Hall Publishing).

The class of 2003 is facing some difficult times as graduates hunt for scarce jobs. The pressure is enormous because just having a diploma doesn’t pay the bills when it comes to the record-setting amounts of student loans and credit card balances.

As I sat at the breakfast table looking at Charlie, my 11-year-old son, I imagined what job hunting might be like for him in 10 years as part of the Class of 2013.

* Setting up campus interviews in 2013: I was tuned out and didn’t hear Charlie at first when he asked me how much I was willing to spend on campus interviews. Boy, I could remember when companies would wine and dine prospective job applicants. Now students have to pay an interview fee to secure an on-campus meeting with corporate representatives. Corporations and universities, looking for new revenue sources, instituted an on-campus interview fee back in ’08 that they share.

I was trying to work out the cost-benefit analysis as to whether paying for individual interviews at $50 each was better than getting the baker’s dozen special -- 13 interviews for $500. How likely was it that Charlie would need fewer than 10 on-campus interviews? A better question was how likely was it that any of these on-campus interviews would actually lead to a job for Charlie.


* Starting salaries and raises: When Charlie interviewed, two companies had very attractive policies on starting salaries. (After deflation hit hard in 2004, most employers reduced starting salaries by 5% each year and a great raise was when your salary remained the same as last year’s.) Two interviewing companies guaranteed that employees would continue to receive their starting salary during their career no matter how long they worked there. That surely was tempting to Charlie.

* Benefits: Benefit packages ranged all over the map. Although most employers had the usual employee co-pay of 100% of health insurance premium costs, some also instituted an administrative fee that employees had to pay.

Dental coverage options were more complex. You could cover everything or just upper teeth or lower teeth, your molars or your gums. Because of the uproar in 2010, most companies no longer had the 10% of salary loss-of-productivity penalty for sick days. Vacation time policies were pretty good. Just about everyone offered the national holidays plus your birthday (too bad, however, if your birthday fell on a weekend or national holiday).

All told, Charlie did pretty well in his job hunt. He received two offers from just 510 interviews.

The job he took offered a great opportunity for advancement.

The only downside was that his starting gross pay exactly equaled the monthly payments on his student loans, so he couldn’t move out of the family home.

He set a goal of being in his own place in 10 years.

Oh, yes. Because of the family history of dental problems, he decided to get the all-inclusive dental package.