While I may be on the other side (working in the real world and receiving a paycheck!), I can fully commiserate with the sentiments of recent graduates trying to swim (stay afloat) in today’s job market. It is scary navigating uncharted waters, especially when the 4 years prior were riding those waves. I remind the students I counsel daily to fully embrace the time they have at UVA, don’t leave any rock unturned, and seek any and all opportunities you can manage and still stay sane! When I read, research, and basically live vicariously through the amazing educational programs (internship programs like D-SIP, study abroad, acapella performances, scholar societies, ect) a university at this caliber, much like Michigan, provides to its students I only wish I had someone like me howling down my ears. It is always easier to say, I would have done it differently, but I look at how lucky our students are to have the educational opportunities in front of them and I only hope that in whatever capacity they may listen, that they follow their heart and pursue a passion, not just a means to an end. When I was an art and design student at Michigan, I was so thankful that my parents did not pressure me to pursue a more logical and lucrative major like engineering or economics because I would have been desperately unhappy. And while I am not making six figures or anywhere near that right now, I have a job that I enjoy and I am very good at doing. So when my students come in and tell me they have no idea what they want to major in or they just want to have a “job” when they graduate, I ask them to think about what it is that gets you excited to wake up in the morning. If you can find something that evokes that kind of passion – then go with it and things will fall into place before you know it.
Having just sent a group of very talented and driven 4th years (seniors) into the real world only a few weeks ago, each of them have expressed feelings of excitement, fear, sadness, courage, and anxiety alike. (On a side note, the University of Virginia, does not call its students freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, but rather 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years. This unique terminology was developed by Thomas Jefferson because he perceives students to be lifetime learners, thus by calling someone a senior it is suggesting that the student is complete with his or her learning). One of the more over-achieving students in the group is already on her way to graduate school at University of Texas, but the majority of these students are panicked because they have no idea what they are going to do next.
Should I just take a job just to have a job? Should I take out loans and go to graduate school? How will I be able to pay pack those loans when the job market is so slim? Should I move back home to save money? How do I know what I am good at? Will I be stuck in my first job forever?
These are all very reasonable questions to be asking at this critical time and while they seek my input, I don’t always have the right answer (I do try my best!).
I think Charlie Goetz presented the optimal outlook for recent graduates to take in his post, Whhttp://umdsipblog.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=432&action=edit&message=10at’s Best When It Comes to Jobs. In his post he argues “…that college students should take time when selecting a career rather than just taking a dead-end job…And I think doors will open if I’m patient. While this debate didn’t do much make me feel better about my job prospects, I think it helped reinforce my perspective—and gave me clarity on some the decisions that I will face as my job search continues.”
I forwarded his very sentiment to my students along with the series of articles, Is Any Job Better Than No Job, in the opinion section of the NYTimes with the hope they would first, read it. Reflect. Be patient in making a decision and then once the decision has been made stride confidently into it, and work that job like you dominated the court, the classroom, the pool, the boat as an UVA student-athlete…( Get that competitive spirit stirring!)
Most importantly, I reminded them that if you are unhappy you are never stuck because your first job is not your last job.