Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Whose to Blame?
Recently I saw a news show broadcasting a panel discussion. The panel featured a variety of ages, but seemed to heavily feature twenty-somethings. What really caught my attention was when a young man mentioned that he was upset with the government for allowing universities to encourage and permit students to graduate with useless degrees that left them with a whole lot of debt and without a job. The other panelists quickly affirmed the young man’s statement.
I don’t really know what to think. My first thought was to be automatically frustrated with the young man. Hadn’t he ever heard of a thing called personal responsibility? No one forced him to choose his major - he made the decision and he should have to accept the consequences that often accompany a more liberal arts degree.
On the other hand, I can see where he is coming from. I attended a wonderful liberal arts college and studied psychology. One of the benefits of a liberal arts college is that you have an opportunity to study a variety of subjects at a more in-dept level, regardless of what your degree might be. Consequently, I had the chance to take some interesting Religion classes, study French, and hone my writing skills with some higher level English classes. The downside to a liberal arts education is that you arguably "waste" a lot of time studying things that will have no relevance to your future career...and you might even end up majoring in one of them.
For example, take my psych degree. Had I not pursued law school, I’m not really sure what I would have done with a psychology degree. Almost all of my fellow psych majors have gone onto get their masters degree or phd. Of those that didn’t, I know one friend who managed to find a psychology related job - all of the others are unemployed or working in a non-related field. The same is true for many others I know who received liberal arts degrees in English, History, Spanish, Art History, etc. Brandon once said that when he decided he didn’t want to be a History professor (during his senior year of college), he did the only other thing a History major could logically do - go to law school.
But isn’t it still a question of personal responsibility? We chose our majors and the paths they took us on.
I’m going to put it out there....I think career services can be deceiving and purely unhelpful. I have ultimately been fortunate to find work through extensive networking and internships, but I have many college friends and acquaintances who spent years seemingly wandering. I’ve often caught myself thinking....what did they expect? A job to just land in their lap after graduation?
Sadly, I think the answer is frequently "yes." Today’s society and the modern education system seems to operate on a reward system and a sense of entitlement. They preach the message that if you work hard, make it through high school/college/graduate school, things will fall together for you. You’ll make good money, buy your dream home, start a family, etc. That is not reality. Sadly, working hard and getting an education isn’t always enough.
Instead, I would argue that you have to be smart - smart in your choices, smart in your timeline, and smart in your networking and relationships. The stressed economy of the last several years and the increase in graduate degrees has made pursing a career a different ballgame. Maybe in the past you used to be able to graduate with a college degree in English and fairly easily find a job simply because you held a college degree, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.
So what’s the answer?
Play the game. Career services, professors, mentors, and other career counselors told me (a college student during some of our roughest economic years) that I should just wait it out....go to law school because for sure the economy would be better by the time I got out and jobs would be flowing like milk and honey - hah! But seriously, graduate degrees are becoming more the norm, even in professions like education and nursing. If you are pursuing a college degree, plan for this additional time and perhaps think of alternatives for your undergraduate years to save time and money (i.e. choose a major early on, save money by going to a community college for a few years, earn college credits early through AP classes or other alternatives, shadow someone in a career you think you might be interested in pursuing before you waste time and money on a degree you won’t use).
Take an alternative route. You don’t have to go to college to be successful. While I loved my college years and learned a ton from them, I also realize that pursuing a traditional undergraduate degree is not always possible, or the best idea, for everyone. Consider trade school or apprenticeships. Don’t necessarily listen to what modern society is telling you you have to do!
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
Thomas A. Edison
Posted by Julianne Raatikka at 4:23 PM