You don’t have to be an Ivy League economics major to realize that our global job market is shifting radically for today’s millennials (those born in the early 1980’s through early 2000’s).
Gone are days when college students triumphantly tossed their graduation caps into the air, leaving the auditorium to cheers and the open arms of hiring businesses. Truth be told, today’s graduates are more likely to walk straight into job uncertainty and a mountain of debt than a corporate cubicle. In fact, studies show that 50 percent of recent college graduates are either unemployed or significantly underemployed, while 68 percent report more than $40,000 worth of student loan and credit card debt.
Making Money, Building a Name
Fortunately, a growing number of entrepreneurial college students are taking charge of their own futures. Through websites like Elance, they find online freelance jobs, get hired and start earning money while in school. The experience of online freelancing also provides these students invaluable lessons in how to sell and deliver a service, and how to communicate with real clients. “Freelancing allows me to build my portfolio and learn new things I would have never had the opportunity to learn otherwise, “ noted Kyle Pruden, a college student in Salem, Illinois who uses Elance.
Businesses of all sizes post over 1 million online freelance jobs each month, running the gambit of interests and vocations. There are jobs available for every area of study, from programming, social media and finance to graphic design, writing and translation. With a little diligence, students can find interesting and relevant jobs directly related to their chosen field of study, earning that oh-so valuable job experience companies are looking for. The flexibility of freelancing makes perfect sense from a scheduling standpoint too. During finals week, students can choose to bypass new work and instead focus 100 percent on studying. With any other part-time job, the hours would still be required, adding undue strain at an already stressful time.
Standing Out from the Crowd
Undergraduates and graduate students who freelance online are developing a new path to financial independence. “It’s a fun way for me to gain career experience and make some extra money,” explained Remington McElhaney, a 19-year old college freshman from northern Idaho. He uses the Elance platform to find jobs related to his passion and future career—animation graphic design.
For students like Remington, freelancing is a fast and efficient way to build-up a portfolio and add meat to a resume—all while building work experience that can help separate a student from the multitude of others in the crowded job market.
The money can be critically important to students outside of the U.S. as well. A textbook case is Esteban Tolosa, a graduate student in Argentina. He uses Elance to find and work jobs designing applications for mobile phones. The freelance work pays his tuition as well as living expenses. “Thanks to freelancing I can pay for my rent, food and school expenses, “ Esteban points out. “ I’m living the dream.”
Simply put, “Job Market 101” doesn’t have to be a crash course for today’s talented crop of university students. Working online students can bolster resumes and pad pocketbooks, making the transition from the classroom to the workforce more manageable.
Read more about the role of millennials in today's job market.
Fabio Rosati is Chief Executive Officer At Elance.