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I can’t find a job that will keep me in Philadelphia: Alyssa Dingwall

Philadelphia area schools, like elsewhere in the country, have a mismatch between many of the degrees they confer and the jobs the economy needs. One 2009 LaSalle University communications graduate offers this commentary on how challenging that feels.

Editor's Note: Philadelphia area schools produce nearly double the number of business management and marketing degrees than there are those type jobs openings in the region each year, according to Campus Philly, while, like much of the country, far fewer STEM-related degrees are conferred each year than job openings here. This is a piece of commentary from 2009 LaSalle University communications graduate Alyssa Dingwall who shares perspective on being part of that mismatch.
Update 4/2/13 @ 3:29p.m.: The degree mismatch is not a Philadelphia-only problem. There is a national conversation happening around a lack of STEM focused students relative to the number of jobs the country is creating. See here, hee and here. Alyssa got a job. Read the update here.
I am exactly the resident that Philadelphia says that it wants, but this young, college-educated, proud new Philadelphian can’t find a job that will keep me here.

Every year or so, an article pops up about the brain drain in Philadelphia, from 2002 to 2012 the challenge has remained, even though the numbers show a marked improvement: area schools attract fantastic and bright minds to all sorts of programs, but too many of them choose to leave.

The Philadelphia Metro Area hosted more than 400,000 college students in 2010, but still, even as things get better, just 61 percent of those who graduated from colleges in the Philadelphia area stayed in the region after graduating, with 53 percent wanting to stay.

As has been written, there is something of a new Philadelphia emerging — people who choose to be here, rather than people who know no other place. I am one of them, and I’m ready to work to stay here.

I am the first generation in my family to earn a college degree. My father was a police officer, and my mom stayed at home with my brother and me. We lived in a small house, on a small street, in a small town. Everything was small, and I wanted more. If you want more, my parents said, you’re going to have to work for it because nothing is going to be handed to you. They set an exceptional example for how to work hard, and I am eternally grateful for that. I shake hands, write thank you notes, always arrive early, and know that, as I was told, ‘if there is time to lean, there is time to clean.’


I received a B.A. in communications from a good Big Five school in 2009 with an average resume and portfolio, balanced by a voracious desire to work. I had zero desire to work for myself or start my own company. I wanted an entry-level job to learn. I didn’t expect to be treated like a special and unique snowflake who deserved a gold star for showing up. I wanted to put in the work, and do whatever it took to climb the corporate chain. I came to learn that these jobs simply did not exist.

After graduation, I worked temporary positions for more than six months before finding a permanent role in my field. I have been doing program management work at a well-known nonprofit in the region for three years now, and I am ready for a change. A merger that will make my position no longer exist come July coincides perfectly with my readiness for the next step.

I have a degree, work experience, a great portfolio and a stellar network of people that I’ve built during my time here. I also happen to know that I present well and give a pretty good interview.

What is an ambitious, college-educated 20-something who wants to stay in Philadephia to do?

I know that because I have attended more than 13 interviews in the past eight months. Thirteen. Top employers in Philadelphia, Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania, and companies with fewer than 10 employees on the payroll. I’ve worn everything from suits to jeans, and tried everything from my most casual chatter to my most professional diction. Every single time, I have been given positive and warm general feedback, but am then passed over.

So, Mayor Nutter, Chamber of Commerce CEO Rob Wonderling, Campus Philly Board Chairwoman Joan T. McDonald, City Council President Darrell L. Clarke, Select Greater Philadelphia Executive Director Thomas G. Morr, Philadelphia Workforce Development Corporation President Mark Edwards: what is an ambitious, college-educated 20-something who wants to stay in Philadephia to do?

My current conclusion is that I need to leave the city I love in order to live the life I want.

Companies: Campus Philly / La Salle University
People: Darrell Clarke / Joan McDonald / Mark Edwards / Rob Wonderling / Thomas Morr

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