Recession-Era Grads Report Higher Job Satisfaction

Graduating into a recession does not bode well. Studies have shown that college and university grads end up taking jobs that pay substantially less than they would have in boom times. Some of them take jobs that don’t even require the degrees they just earned. This poor launch then reverberates through the rest of their career and drags down future earnings.

But money isn’t everything, and those who graduate into a recession are more satisfied with their jobs than those who enter the workforce at better times, according to “The Bright Side of Bad Times,” research published in the December 2013 issue of Administrative Science Quarterly. Emily Bianchi, an assistant professor at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, authored the study; she graduated from college and graduate school into two recessions (2001 and 2011, respectively).

Bianchi’s findings dovetail with existing research that suggests the unemployment rate at graduation correlates with graduates’ job satisfaction. Bianchi conducted an original survey of 247 working adults with graduate degrees. Those who graduated during a recession were more likely to express gratitude about their jobs and less likely to regret paths not taken.

What’s more, recession-era graduates’ job satisfaction doesn’t seem to wane. “Recession graduates [are] happy [not only] with their first jobs but also with their third, fourth, and fifth jobs,” says Bianchi. “This experience seems to leave an imprint on how they assess later work environments.”

To that end, Bianchi suggests easing up on millennials, many of whom graduated into this latest crisis. They have a reputation for being ingrates, but, Bianchi says, “they might be more grateful and feel less entitled than we think. For a generation that inherited a really tough economy, we’re really hard on them.”

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