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Take The Job–No Wait, Don’t. Or Do.

Is any job better than no job? That’s the question the New York Times posed to a panel of experts Sunday.

First off, the advice contained in the NYT piece applies to recent grads—the situation may be different when you’re a mid-career professional wondering whether the mortgage is gonna get paid if you don’t take that job cashiering at Target. Or if you’re worried about gaps on your resume and the position offered is at pay or title below your grade.

But for recent grads, who, a recent study notes, are turning down jobs they don’t like, even as the unemployment rate among young people nears 20 percent, the advice is surprisingly mixed.

For example, from sociologist Katherine Newman:
“Where you start has serious consequences for where you end up, which is one reason — besides blind optimism — why some young (and not so young) people might not jump at the first thing offered.”

Or sociologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett:
“This seems to provide grist for the mill of the cottage industry that has developed in recent years devoted to denigrating the young: ‘See what selfish slackers they are, the youth of this generation! What’s the matter with those lazy brats? Why, in my day ….’

“‘They should be grateful for any job they can get!’ you might be grumbling as you read this. But why shouldn’t they use this time, immediately after college graduation, to look for work they might really enjoy? Most of them have learned to live on very little money during their college years, so they can manage to scrape by for awhile. Many of them will decide to move home for awhile during their job search, and most parents are glad to have them back, especially if it’s temporary.”

Most of the panel, though, suggested that grads take the job.

And at the end, panelist Judith Warner, former nytimes.com columnist, says something particularly scarring: she’d interviewed a young woman who came from if not poverty then something close to it. She’d been raised in Queens by a single mother, worked hard enough to attend Bucknell on a full scholarship, had leadership skills and great internships. She should be set.

But “After a lifetime of doing everything right, Marissa made the decision to go into journalism.”

Ouch.

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