Paul Krugman's Advice to Recent Graduates

Paul Krugman: College graduates should be in a better position than those with lower education, but in many cases now they're in a worse position because they've come out of college with a lot of debt and they're coming into a job market that offers few jobs.  It's definitely hard, and I can't give you easy advice. . . . Keep on plugging.  Even in bad times effort makes a difference.  Working even in a job that isn’t the job that you ought to have is better than not working.  And also, by the way, you're not just someone seeking a job.  You're also a citizen, so vote for politicians who promise to do something about it instead of just using the usual empty rhetoric.  

Keeping yourself ready, particularly if you're a highly skilled, highly educated person and you're not finding a job that will make use of that, I know it's tough, but I’d say, don't give up, and that means not just don't give up searching but don't give up staying in touch.  Being an informed citizen--keeping track of what's going on in the world is important to be a good citizen, but it's also important to keep your mind sharp.  So even if you're working at a job that is more menial than you wanted, keep on reading, or keep on reading the New York Times--I would say that, right?--but keep on reading the New York Times.  Keep up with the news.  Keep up with what's happening.  Stay interested.  The world will be more ready to make use of you when this crisis ends if you have been keeping up with the world.

Let me say a word on behalf of the internet.  It's been—there is an awful lot of garbage out there on the internet, but it's also true that it's more possible for any interested citizen to be really well informed than ever was the case before.  There’s excellent discussions--I follow economics, of course--but many, many fields, you can find the best discussions, the issues being batted back and forth between people who really know . . .  and where they have disagreements, they're really interesting disagreements.  That's up there every day on the web.  There are now increasingly courses.  You can—now you don't even have to register.  You can watch lectures.  If you want to see education at the most elite schools in the country, a lot of that is up on the web--actually, not mine, not Princeton, not yet, but we'll get there.

In a way this is like the third age of America.  There was the age of Abe Lincoln studying by candlelight in his log cabin or whatever it was he did, something like that, when people could educate themselves.  And then there was the America of the post-war era, which is the one I grew up in, where a lot of education really had to take place in a very formalized setting because we had these great universities, and state universities at least were affordable and everybody had access.  Now we're in an age where between budget cutbacks and the dire state of the economy, some of those more formal channels are being closed off.  They shouldn't be, but they are, but the ability to continue educating yourself is now even better than it was when Abe Lincoln was chopping logs.  This is the great age of the intelligent person who wants to keep abreast and can become highly educated, can become an expert even without those formal qualifications.  

I think the main thing is find things that you're interested in and which aren't just—it's not just checking boxes on the career resume because that is becoming less and less a reliable path to advancement.  Instead, be sure that you have something to sell, which is not just, “Here is my transcript,” but being able to talk about and weigh in on and contribute to discussions that go well beyond that.

That's the best thing you can do.  Good luck.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

In many ways, college graduates are now actually in a worse position financially than those who don't go to college, says Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman. Here, Krugman shares his advice for dealing with debt and surviving American unemployment.

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