Thursday, December 4, 2008

Preparing Our Grads:The foundation for avoiding another recession?

I had lunch today with a friend who is one semester out from completing his undergraduate degree. We talked about his "senioritis" (a lack of motivation caused by too much school) and his uncertainty about post-graduate life. I completely identify with his feelings because it was only two years ago that I was in the same boat. He said he feels like even after completing his degree that he has no skill set. At first, I thought that was ridiculous and he just wasn't thinking hard enough, but then I remembered how I felt at that point in my life.

I had just applied to 7 or so law schools for the exact same reason. I thought to myself, if i wanted to have a comfortable life I needed to actually know what I was doinw. My B.A. in Environmental Studies was really just a degree in treehugging. How would I support myself and my future family talking about saving the planet, there is already too many people doing that as it is. Graduate school seemed like the only option for me to develop my own skill set and put myself on some course to professionalism.

Increasingly, however I find that so many of my friends around me are thinking the same thing. What did college really do for me? Currently, I have a brother asking what he is going to do, look for a job in an already tight post-grad market or go on to more school. I have other friends who are working in the family business becuase they can't find work. Or changing jobs because the first track was unsatisfying. How is this happening?

So I think... When was it that I finally started thinking about what I was going to do with my life. It was when I started law school, not when I graduated from undergrad. I had no idea what a Career Services office was until then, nor was I concerned with the concept of networking. This just seems like a waste, letting all of these prepared, intelligent, capable people come out of college with no preparation to find a career. Then two years after graduation, they end up hating what they are doing and have no plan to right thier course.

This isn't just something unique to recent grads. My friend works for the alumni office and said that the recent calls he has been making are to recent grads (10yrs out or less) and 3 out of 5 of the alums he is talking to are unemployed. I know the economy is bad, times are tight and getting tighter, but how much of this is really because we haven't prepared people to transition? I think a majority of our problems can be tied to this.

It is time that our universities beef up their career services, there are thousands of students who are ready to help transition this country in to a new era. They have ideas, they are technologically savvy, and ready to be heard. So let's help them transition into the workforce. Networking and career planning need to be required curriculum for Junior and Senior students so they don't fall victim to the thinking and reality that so many of my friends have. In today's world it is easy to get your voice out, thats why I started this blog.

Im not saying that eveyone should start a blog to solve their career strife, but its an option. In my first year of law school, before I transferred to UW-Madison, I was in a class called "Pathway to Success." This was a genius idea of two of the deans at Thomas M. Cooley Law School to get young lawyers thinking about their careers and life. In the program we worked on our resumes, discussed our personalities, and were able to ask questions about what it meant to be a lawyer. And now, 1/2 a degree away from being a lawyer, I'm wondering why it took this long in my education before any of this was offered to me? Everyone in the class I'm sure thought the same, at least the amount of questions seemed to reflect that.

A democracy depends on a well armed citizenry (not guns, but intelligence) and so far our country is sleeping at the wheel. We are letting to many young minds become discontented with their lives before they even have a chance to make them.

So, lets arm them. If your a professional be a mentor, it will be a great experience from both sides. If you are a Career Counselor, evaluate your institutions program and ask what you are doing to help students prepare for life after college, don't wait for them to walk through the door. If you are a parent, help your children understand that a career is more than just a job that pays the bills it is an extension of the self.

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