Do you remember when you graduated college? Did you have that satisfied feeling of total accomplishment when you walked across the stage and grabbed that piece of paper that said you were ready to take on the world? I know I did.
At that moment I was invincible. A culmination of 18 years of formal education had reached its zenith and I was now ready to start the rest of my life. Before the graduation ceremony was over I was already thinking about my dream job that I would soon be working at after the summer was over.
What a surprise I received when I began to apply for positions and realized that my “dream job” required over 7 years of experience. As more and more days passed with unreturned emails, my invincibility that I had first felt during graduation faded. In a span of a short summer, my corner office had turned into a cash register.
What happened? My whole life I had been told that you need to get a degree and then you can get your dream job. Upon calling some of my other friends, I realized that I wasn’t the only one having this problem. Some had already accepted jobs that didn’t require a degree, some had decided to go back to school, and some even had boomeranged back to their parents. I was shocked. Most of these people were extremely smart and had done very well in college, in most cases better than me.
What my friends and I had experienced is a phenomenon that’s seems to be all too common among recent college graduates. There seems to be a total disillusion between career expectations and the reality of the ever more selective job market, a job market that seems to be getting worse and worse everyday.
It’s not just college graduates either. I tutor some high school students and I got to experience this real world discrepancy first had. We had organized a goal setting exercise that had the kids set a 5-year and a 10-yeargoal. At the end of the exercise, everyone got to share their goals with the rest of the group. I was taken aback as most kids had a 5-year plan of owning a home and/or their own business, a dream that should be realized before they graduated college.
Unfortunately, there are no college courses entitled the reality of the real world. This is something most grads learn the hard way. I am surprised at the amount of emphasis that is put on training for a career rather than how to obtain one. The best pilot in the world is useless until he can take off.
With the economy showing no signs of stability and unemployment at records highs, it is imperative we teach young adults how to navigate the jungle that has become our job market. Dreams might be sidelined and bubbles burst, but at least their degrees will be used to cure cancer, not making frappuccinos.
Here is an interesting link on college graduate unemployment from the New York Times: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/08/the-job-market-for-college-graduates/
Do you know any recent college grads experiencing problems getting work? Please comment.