On the economic downturn: a recent graduate’s experience

By Vivian Miezianko
Northwest Asian Weekly

Recession, mortgage crisis, unemployment. These words have been thrown around a lot since 2008. The economic downtown has affected many aspects of our society, from individuals who have lost their jobs to businesses with dwindling revenues. But what about new college graduates who have recently entered the job market?

According to CNNmoney.com, only 25 percent of college seniors have landed jobs straight out of school.

A 2010 graduate

Budi Suwandi was born in Jakarta, Indonesia. The middle child of three, he has an older brother and a younger one. Suwandi’s father upholds traditional Chinese values. “He values honesty, hard work, loyalty, and respect towards elders,” said Suwandi. “My mother is a little more liberal.”

In 2001, Suwandi and his older brother came to Seattle for school. Suwandi first attended North Seattle Community College. He then went to the University of Washington and double majored in biology and psychology, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 2007. This past June, he acquired a master’s degree in industrial psychology from Seattle Pacific University. He has been looking for a job in the greater Seattle area since January.

Suwandi’s job-hunting experience

“It has been a long struggle,” Suwandi said.

Nine months into his job search, he has not received any responses from prospective employers. Suwandi has been volunteering at his church since he finished school, helping with advertising, planning, and seat arrangement. He networked for potential job leads at church, though his efforts have not been fruitful.

In this respect, Suwandi is not alone. “I have a good friend [who graduated with the same degree as I did in June]. She sticks with her sales job, because she couldn’t find a good job in her field for six months even though she did a lot of informational interviews with different companies.”

Looking for jobs in other states is not something Suwandi is keen on. “I’ve thought about that, but [moving to] another state is like [moving to] another culture. I might just go back to Jakarta.” A few months ago, Suwandi decided to move back to Indonesia in November should he not get a job offer by then.

Suwandi explained, “It seems that Indonesia has a better economy. And even if I have a job here, it doesn’t guarantee that I won’t be laid off.”

Suwandi’s present living situation

“I’m fortunate enough that my parents actually bought a house here. My financial situation has been relatively stable,” he said.

Fortunately, Suwandi’s parents are understanding of his circumstances.

“[There is] no pressure from them,” Suwandi said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself. My parents paid for my education. It’s time for me to give back. That’s the pressure.”

“They didn’t push me,” he added. “I know their wish is for me to go back [to Jakarta]. My mom was here earlier, and she said to me, ‘It’s OK to find a temporary job just to get the experience, and then go back home.’ ”

While Suwandi attended school, he said he harbored expectations about utilizing his skills right after getting his degree. He got excited thinking about working in the real world.

“Of course, in every graduate’s life, they’ve thought about that. I’ve graduated with that degree and somebody should give me a job. The good thing about this economic situation is that it teaches me to be humble, to accept things as they are.”

Disappointment

“Initially, I felt depressed, thinking my parents spent much money on my education. I’m wasting my life here. Now, I don’t feel disappointed. It’s part of the economy. It’s part of life. All you [can] do is try hard, apply for jobs, do the best you can.” Suwandi did feel a sense of relief after deciding to return to Indonesia.

He added, “[I feel] truly blessed that my parents are supportive.”

In Indonesia, Suwandi’s parents were questioned by relatives about how Suwandi is doing. He said, “I try not to think too much about it. There’s no end to it. If I have a job one day, someone else will be making more than me. There’s no point to compare with anyone.”

Does Suwandi still retain hopes on his circumstances?

He said, “Emotionally, I don’t expect much [about getting a job here by November]. Behaviorally, I still apply for jobs.”

As for advice, Suwandi has obtained some wisdom through job searching.

“Just network, network, network. Get to know people. Don’t think too much about finance. It’ll ruin your relationship.” ♦

Vivian Miezianko can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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