It’s that time of year again – graduating college seniors across the country are nervously and excitedly walking the stage and planning (hopefully) for what’s next – their careers. However, instead of celebrating this exciting time for our graduates, it seems many of the conversations lately revolve around the looming student debt crisis or perceived lack of job prospects many of this year’s graduates will face as they embark on the next chapter of their lives. Though the growing prevalence of these issues inevitably present some obstacles for graduating students, is it really rational to predispose these so-called “crises” as reasons for not finding a certain job or one that pays a certain salary?
Graduates who feel discouraged cannot keep blaming the economy and other external factors for their own feelings of disappointment or failure. Though job prospects may have been much better in past years, prior graduates still had to pay off debt, go on interviews, and, as my dad would say, “show up.” On the same token, graduates years ago also lacked many advantages that today’s graduates have at their disposal such as the Internet, organized networking events, and a broader range of job opportunities in newly evolved industries (i.e. digital media, online marketing, etc.)
We need to empower our young people to put themselves in the driver’s seats in their own lives, regardless of the negative opinions others like the impose on the current post graduation climate. I am not denying the harsh reality of high student loans and an increasingly competitive job market. But, there is no reason why every college graduate should not be waking up the day after graduation and doing everything in their power to make their dreams a reality. As a young graduate, I pounded the pavement, networked, and acquired the professional skills I needed to get a job in the field I studied in college. The time I could have spent on Facebook or sleeping in I used instead to improve myself professionally. It’s unlikely that any student will have their dream job right away, but nobody - not even Oprah or Steve Jobs - had a career that was an overnight success.
If we don’t change the conversation about graduation, our students will fall back on the challenges they have been brainwashed to believe as mere excuses not to work hard for what they truly want. Each student has the power and ability to create his or her own destiny after college. Some post graduate paths may be harder, more costly, or take longer than others. But, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “life is a journey, not a destination.” Instead of making excuses, each graduate needs to start his or her journey today – and make sure every step of that journey counts.