There will be about 16 million college graduates this spring in addition to several million high school graduates who will not enroll in college, many of whom will find themselves in the midst of millions of unemployed workers where there are about five or six or more unemployed applying for every job vacancy. Several times during my 40 plus years of teaching, my graduates encountered the same problem for the first time. During good times and bad, I polled my students with two questions: (1) What is your view of economic conditions in the immediate future? and (2) What are your personal prospects for the future? Thank God, in good times and bad they were almost unanimous that the general economic future was getting more difficult but their individual prospects were better. Had it been otherwise, their aging professors and society would have found little comfort in their responses
Professor Diane Dreher, an English Professor at Santa Clara University, made the observation that there is an inclination for students during good-time labor markets to make hasty decisions, jumping into the highest paid or most prestigious job without much consideration of their own strengths and values. Too much incongruence between the job and one’s values and strengths can in time lead to the question, “What the hell am I doing in this job?” Yes, you need a job to eat in the mean time, but that can also be a time to build a strategy for how to define your values and the job that will help you sustain them. I am sure that I don’t fully comprehend the concerns of this generation because I entered the work world at a different time, so in a sense I was never the age of today’s graduates. The baby crop eight decades ago was one of the smallest ever birthed in this country, which translates into a lot less competition in the years that followed. Still I had students in front of me for half of that time and have heard their concerns, written countless numbers of letters of recommendation for them and talked with them about their job hunting successes and failures.
Advice from old guys is often not welcome, but here goes. Be of good cheer, this too will pass. Economics is the “dismal science”– economists have forecast nineteen of the last three recessions. Keep thinking and planning beyond tomorrow and never stop learning. People and organizations who plan usually do better than those who do not, but in all truth, they seldom follow their plans. Remember, frustration usually arises not from actual obstacles or barriers but from unrealized potential. Life and careers are more marathons than dashes, so stay in training mentally, ethically and spiritually for the much longer race. Thereafter, each passing time will sing to you that what you have been through is not as serious as you thought at the time.