In addition to her full-time job, Jasmine Kennedy works part time at DSW, a shoe store at Jordan Creek Town Center, to help pay back her college debt.
In addition to her full-time job, Jasmine Kennedy works part time at DSW, a shoe store at Jordan Creek Town Center, to help pay back her college debt.

Jasmine Kennedy works full time at Hockenberg Newburgh, a food service brokerage company, as a customer service representative and accounting specialist. But student debt from her time at Simpson College has forced her to also take a part-time job at DSW, a shoe store at Jordan Creek Town Center.

Between the two jobs, Kennedy, 24, works about 60 hours a week.

“When I first started college, I never thought I would need a second job to help pay loans off,” she said. “It wasn’t until my senior year at Simpson that it really hit me just how much the loans added up to compared with what I was looking at for an average pay at a job after graduation.”

High debt and lower entry-level salaries are hurting college graduates, who are struggling to make it in the workplace. Over the past decade, inflation-adjusted wages for entry-level positions have fallen by 5.4 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank.

And while starting salaries have fallen, student debt has risen. In 2011, the average student debt in Iowa was $28,753, nearly $2,000 more than the national average and up significantly from 2006, when Iowa’s average student debt was $22,926, according to the Project on Student Debt, an initiative of the Institute for College Access & Success.

By some measures, the cost of living also has gone up. A recent report by the Iowa Finance Authority found that relative to household incomes, the median cost of a home in Iowa has increased 23 percent in the last decade.

In 2000, 16.5 percent of Central Iowa homeowners and 35.4 percent of Central Iowa renters spent 30 percent or more of their annual income on housing, according to the report. However, by 2010 the percentages of those paying those higher housing costs had grown to 22.7 percent and 47.3 percent, respectively.

To adapt, some young professionals are opting to take on part-time positions to increase their incomes. How pervasive is the trend? Anecdotally, it can seem common, but there aren’t many statistical measures of the trend. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that in December 2012, about 6 percent of workers between the ages of 20 and 25 held more than one job.

“You have to do what you have to do,” Kennedy said, adding that she plans to stay at DSW for at least one year.

Starting salaries differ from major to major, so not all young professionals are struggling, said Peter Orazem, an economics professor at Iowa State University. But those graduating in a bust year in a field that is not in high demand can expect a slower wage growth to follow them for the rest of their lives, he said. There’s another problem hampering young professionals with high debt and low salaries, too.

“Historically, those with the most debt migrate to places with the highest salaries. But those places happen to be in more expensive cities,” Orazem said.

Young people certainly are not alone when it comes to a decrease in wages, Orazem said, but the positions they typically fill are more vulnerable to pay cuts than those held by people who are already established in their careers.

“It’s a lot easier to lower the salaries of people who aren’t there and for the positions that aren’t filled,” he said.

The decision to lower starting salaries rather than cut current employees’ salaries may make plenty of sense for employers needing to cut back on costs, but that doesn’t mean it won’t cause them problems in the future, said Ted Williams, human resources management consultant for Des Moines-based Williams Group.

Right now, it’s an employers’ market, he said, adding that employers have their pick of candidates and can be less willing to negotiate when it comes to salary. But employers need to be wary for when the market turns around.

“Eagles fly and turkeys remain,” he said. “Your best employees will go when the market changes, and you’ll be left with the turkeys.”

That’s why it’s important for employers to let their younger employees know they are appreciated, even if they can’t offer them a higher salary. “Make sure they know that you can offer them other things like (paid time off) or the ability to work from home,” Williams said.

Employers should also show their younger employees how they fit into the company’s equation, where the company is going and how they can help it get there, he said.

“Employers who see an opportunity to exploit their employees will lose out,” he said.

Some young professionals talk about the difficulties of juggling multiple jobs, and why their supervisors should care

Tara Ely | 28

• Full-time job: Aviation customer service, Des Moines Airport Authority

• Part-time jobs: Elliott Aviation and nanny

• Benefits of your full-time job: I am a people person, so I like the constant interaction with people. It is fun to talk to passengers, pilots, and executives that fly through the airport. At my full-time job we have very good health benefits, retirement and IPERS (Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System), which is a stability factor.

• The hardest part about working multiple jobs: Not feeling overwhelmed and like you’re on the “hamster wheel of life.” Sometimes it feels like I’m working my life away. I really have to make it a point to schedule time with friends or to get routine errands accomplished. Even laundry can seem overwhelming because I’m not home a lot.

Andrea Jansen | 29

• Full-time job: Program support coordinator, Iowa State Association of Counties (ISAC)

• Part-time job: Domestic violence advocate and employment advocate, Children and Families of Iowa (CFI) with the Domestic Violence Program

• Reason you took on a second job: At first, I got a second job to supplement my income and I was looking for a challenge. Shortly after receiving my job with CFI, I accepted a new full-time position with ISAC so both of those things were not as relevant to me. So currently, I would say that I have continued with my part-time jobs to save money and to work with individuals because I really wanted to keep that connection.

• The hardest part about working multiple jobs: I would say the hardest part is the long days because sometimes after you put in a lengthy day at your full-time job, your couch (and your dog) seem very tempting to go home to.

Rachael Tiby | 24

• Full-time job: Marketing and communications associate, Kuder Inc.

• Part-time job: Coach, Kingdom Hoops, a year-round AAU basketball program based in Ankeny.

• Reason you took a second job: First and foremost, coaching is my passion ... but like many others, I don’t want to be drowned in debt and have it follow me for the rest of my life; that can be a huge weight on your shoulders.

• Benefits of your full-time job: There’s no company that could give me fulfillment like mine does. I’ve always wanted to work in this field and for a company that makes a true difference in people’s lives. Our company allows people to discover what they’re passionate about in life and pursue a career with meaning and one where they are happy.

Sarah Moritz | 26

• Full-time job: Rejected new business specialist, MetLife Investors Annuity Operations

• Part-time job: On-air talent (DJ), Lazer 103.3

• Reason you took a second job: MetLife (is) the (job) I depend on for health benefits and a steady income. I have one job that helps me feel like I’m satisfying my dreams and ambition, and I have another one to make sure I’m still able to pay the bills.

• The hardest part about working multiple jobs: Fatigue. The reality of your two-day weekend shrinking down to a one-day, or a no-day weekend makes it hard to prepare for the next workweek, forget about sleeping in. I love to travel, but it’s extra hard to get a vacation because I always have at least one, probably two bosses at different jobs to clear my time off with.