Still thinking about my niece’s college graduation. I’m bursting with pride that she achieved her goal. She busted her butt, taking heavy course loads and extremely difficult classes. Classes that I would have run from before ever purchasing the book. And she was beaming as she received her diploma. At least I think she was beaming; it was hard to tell given that we were seated on the far end of the arena. Either she was happy, or she was embarrassed that her cheering section jumped up and screamed so loudly that it echoed. I think we may have scared those sitting calmly around us. My apologies.
I remember feeling like my niece. One of my best memories is graduating from college and feeling like I had just finished the hardest, longest, most kick-butt marathon ever. Receiving my masters’ degree was even more thrilling – a newly minted degree and my dream job waiting for me once I stepped outside. Seemed like the world was full of opportunities.
I’m a bit concerned about the new robes I saw at the graduation, especially in today’s economy. I’m wondering how many of them have a job waiting for them. As a board member for a collegiate graduate program, I know that many choose to continue their education simply due to the scarcity of jobs these days. It’s hard to bask in the recognition that comes with a robe when all you really want is to put the knowledge to use and start your career. Continuing to grad school also creates an issue for those who must have a graduate degree to pursue their dreams, such as my niece. Now she’s in competition once again simply to get in to a graduate program.
This also raises concerns for those of us already in the work force, especially for anyone in lay-off land. Now we’ve got to compete for jobs with this new batch of robes. They’re smart¸ ambitious and full of energy. They have yet to be jaded from years of working long hours for dwindling benefits without much recognition. Oh, I know; it’s just a matter of time before they experience the feeling of burnout. But still, it’s competition right now for the thousands of unemployed. I could argue that experience can outweigh academic “smarts”, except that in the real world youth plus new degree equals high level job, even if it’s low paying.
I’ve spoken with both sides of the equation about this situation. Friends and former colleagues who are considered veterans in their fields are having trouble finding work. For those of us who have pieced together work after being laid-off, many are underemployed (translation: low title and low pay) or are in a job that doesn’t suit us yet we can’t afford to leave. Desperate to find something better, the competition is fierce with these new robes vying for the same jobs.
The students are concerned too. Many are forced to work multiple unpaid internships before finding a company that will hire them – and actually pay them. Wow. I’m not talking about students who skated by with barely passing grades either. Even my niece, who was a T.A. as well as a leader in numerous college organizations, participated in an academic mission trip, has hands-on work experience and whose grades are what I would consider stellar, is concerned simply about getting into a graduate program to continue toward her dream career.
One thing I do know is that we all – new robes and career veterans – have the opportunity to make our career dreams come true despite the economy and anything else that might get in our way. That may mean accepting a job with a lower title and salary than we’re used to, or for new grads it may mean bunking with the parents while working an unpaid internship. It’s all about getting experience, no matter how insignificant or tough it may seem at the time.
As my favorite new philosopher Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame said recently, “You have to have a dream in order to realize the dream”. Well said, Steven. Rock on, graduates.
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