College graduation is an event celebrating notable academic achievement fueled by that glorious ambition of young adults to go out and change the world. Unfortunately, diploma euphoria is short-lived.
That the average worker will hold 15 to 20 jobs over the course of his or her career reflects on one level the post-college plight of moving serpentine across a cloudy and hazardous economy with the hopes of ultimately landing in “ideal job” nirvana. The tragedy is particularly hard-felt by graduates who have earned their liberal arts default degree but have no clear idea of what they want to do with their lives. They are already doomed to take on the deeper murkiness of the college degree’d job market competing with the masses who are applying for the same generic jobs. Entering search terms on career sites becomes the knee-jerk strategy for “finding a job.” But, it doesn’t work long-term for finding fulfillment. Even cracking the code to get noticed on social media won’t bring true self-satisfaction if what you’re pursuing is anything but your passion.
Ambiguous or non-existent career goals predictably result in most Americans today hating their jobs and holding on by their existential fingertips trying to survive each day at the office. A recent Gallup poll produced the alarming statistic that almost 70% of those surveyed either hate their jobs or are completely disengaged from the work they do. Having hired hundreds of persons across my career, there is an inarguable case to be made for the benefits of having a college degree versus not. However, in today’s job market flooded with college degree’d individuals, there is a tendency to over-value a 3.8 versus a 2.5 as well as 4-years at a noted university versus someone who goes to community college for 2-years then matriculates. Many of my best hires from a level college degree playing field were based on intangibles: great managers came from youth athletic coaches who had a passion for bringing out the best performance of others and notable salespersons had been performers in music and knew firsthand about engaging an audience. Many of these valued, high-performing colleagues continued to use their work to support their passion while others ultimately went on to pursue their passion full-time.
The multiplicity of trans-career positions sadly speaks to persons spending their entire lives in “the work they do” versus “the pursuit of their passion.” Along the chain of life events, well-meaning mentors and surrogate superego figures direct young people toward careers they themselves believe would be best for their underlings; whether or not they align with the true passion of those they are meant to influence.
Graduating college students face immense new challenges that are in stark contrast to college life and further steer them away from docking with their life’s true directive:
- Finding A Job: a down-turned economy coupled with rising unemployment rates send young people intensely networking to find “a job” consoled by confidantes to “keep your confidence up; “ that “You will find a ‘good job’ at some point.” Our pursuit in life must be to find and follow our true passion if happiness is to be genuine and long-term. Any job will pay the bills albeit at the cost of a meaningful and fulfilled life. We as parents along with teachers, coaches and school counselors must dedicate ourselves to helping young adults identify and pursue their life calling. The lives of our children are too important to be relegated to learning strategies for finding a job and then holding onto it because it pays the bills. We must be committed to helping them live a life worthy of the love we brought them into the world with.
- Lack of Experience: early in the job search recent grads are challenged by their lack of relevant work experience so they compete for unpaid internships just to bulk up their resume until they can make their mark in the mainstream. Any experience that builds upon a disingenuous job choice puts the desired goal of pursuing one’s calling further out of reach until young people will predictably suffocate and be succumbed by an unfulfilled life. We need to be vigilant about identifying our children’s passion for play and how it evolves into viable career potentialities so that we can expose them to the experiences that are best-suited for their life and career choices.
- Debt and Financial Pressure: the majority of baby boomer parents have not adequately prepared their children for the apocalyptic, financial wake-up call that accompanies college graduation. Focused on producing quick solutions to the daily dramas of everyday life, many parents do no financial guidance of their children to prepare them for adult financial realities. Neither do most schools. From freshman through senior undergraduate year the financial time bomb is ticking with the alarm going off right after graduation of student loan debt and cost of living expenses exacerbated by low starting salaries. The debt is compounded in certain cases by specialized career pursuits that require advanced degrees that tragically are still not what the compliant young adult is genuinely meant to do for the rest of his or her life. Financial urgencies send deer-in-the-headlights young adults competing for temp jobs that only fuel their pessimism and lead to depression and negative life resolve.
- Social Transition: the physical stage of graduation ceremonies becomes a quick transition from college social life and a structured class schedule to independent living and new responsibilities. Returning home to live with their parents “for a while til I get on my feet” masks the loneliness, fear and terror of young adults unprepared to meet the necessities required to find a job, let alone their passion.
Our commitment to every young person we are the parent of or teach or coach or work with or come into contact with should be our opportunity to influence and inspire and encourage him and her to live their dream. Each of us will benefit from every young adult in the world living their genuine life calling. Whether it’s listening to their music, having our car repaired by them, eating at their diner, reading their books, visiting their boutique, having our electricity repaired by them, referring people to their law practice, watching them dance, viewing the film they’ve directed, buying their products, having our lives made easier by their inventions, hanging one of their paintings in our office or home, our lives will be touched by every young person who is simply and grandly living their dream.
We have the responsibility as parents and life influencers to help our young adults define success on their own terms; free from career convention and societal expectations. We need to provide a sound knowledge of how to manage one’s money and guide them in being responsible for their independent living. We need to help them position “a job” as a potential passion supporter enabling them to go for their dreams while paying their bills versus a job being a roadblock to living life on their terms. As parents we learn early on that we were totally unprepared to being a parent but we figured things out with the help of people who have been parents and were willing to share their experiences and lessons learned. We must do the same for our children in teaching them how to find and engage mentors who can assist them in pursuing their passion.
We must be tenacious in not responding to our youth’s wildest career aspirations with “be realistic.” I value dreamers and visionaries over those who don’t see the possibilities. Across the growth and maturation of your son or daughter:
- Watch for patterns and trends in their play and hobbies
- Engage him or her in conversations about their activities and explore their interests with interest
- Expose them to experiences that heighten the things they have an affinity for
- Introduce them to people doing what they like as potential mentors and role-models
- Build a career and education plan around their interests
- Introduce financial contingencies to support the pursuit of their interests
- Help them define success on their terms
- ALWAYS BE SUPPORTIVE
Education should be the catalyst for persons to pursue their passion. We shouldn’t begin exploring who we are and what we are meant to do post-graduation by selecting from the drop-down menu of search term-driven job titles. Following one’s passion needs to be a seamless search pursued throughout our lives from young adulthood well-into our senior years.
Watch for the forthcoming book DESIGN YOU by Garrison Leykam and Christopher Leykam
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