That is the new question. No longer is it, “what are you going to do when you grow up?” That is for 5th graders who still dream of being professional football players and veterinarians (both things I wanted to do until I realized that I had no talent in the former and I had no stomach to put pets down for the latter). This new question causes a lot of anxiety for both high school and college students, but most especially those matriculating with a 4-year degree from a university.
I know first hand.
My daughter Kelli just recently graduated from Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh with a degree in sports management and an emphasis on marketing. She was working with the Pittsburgh Marathon in a job she really enjoyed, yet she was ready to head back home after 4 years. As we talked, she was feeling a little depressed. Her comments centered around the pressure of having to answer this question…over and over again. She knew that she would be asked by well-meaning family, friends, and people in the community she knew. At one point she told me, “maybe I will just tell them that I interviewed with Art Vandalay!” (Art Vandalay was the classic fictitious character that George Costanza made up in Seinfeld)
Here’s the deal…
College kids dread this question because they feel like a failure if they don’t have an answer. There has been so much pressure put on them by parents (yes…that’s right I’m talking to parents and that included me), family, society, and themselves that it actually inhibits their ability to properly strategize. They end up taking jobs they don’t like or offer no career advancement just for the sake of getting a job. Don’t get me wrong, earning some money in a temporary job is fine as long as you have a plan to move forward. No plan usually means no light at the end of the tunnel. All the graduation speeches about having you whole life ahead of you; of being bold and assertive; and of changing the world all vanish when the stress of the implications of this question bubble to the surface.
What are you going to do when you graduate? The right answer for many young adults is, “I don’t know yet, but I’ve got a plan.”
© 2014 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved
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