Planning for life after college is not what you think it is….

By Marcia Y.
Cantarella. PhD

Author, I
CAN Finish College: The Overcome Any Obstacle and Get Your Degree Guide

Far too many people, some who should know better if they looked at their own career paths, are making the link between college and career way more linear than it needs to be or should be. The evidence is in
that those tracked to purely vocational tracks as undergraduates do not fare as well economically in the long term as those who take the seemingly more risky“liberal arts” path.

But here are some realities. First the jobs of today and the jobs of tomorrow may look nothing alike. Social media marketing anyone? If you put a diverse group of college grads who have been out for 15 or more years together I would put money on the fact that there will be a wide range of majors and careers (having nothing to do with those majors) and the same set of skills across the board. The skills will have to do with communications, interactions with others, critical reasoning and problem solving, some varying degree of quantitative skills and the ability to research and solve problems. Most of our leaders in politics and business have degrees in things ranging from History to Religion and Psychology. Most medical students have degrees in Philosophy and History or English.  Any major will deliver on the key skills. The trick is to be at the top of the pack in grades. Not grades you have brow-beaten a professor to get but grades earned through hard work and intelligence and because you like what you arestudying. Forcing yourself to be a math major because there are jobs in it does not make sense if you hate it. It will bite you sooner or later.

Finding a passion and pursuing it to excellence is part one of the strategy to the first job out of school. The other part has to do with how you spend the rest of the time. So while not neglecting the academics, there should also be some internships, some leadership activities, some community service in the life of a student. That is to say there has to be a chance to apply the skills learned in class, to try out fields and
demonstrate employability, to show that one plays well with others and can lead or follow as required, and can juggle many things well. This also constitutes a resume. Professors who value intellect—the bright kid who asks questions and comes to office hours, the employer who hires a student as an intern, the dean who oversees the community service project will all be references. It is not about being linear—life is not linear, but about being good and perceived as good by others.

One thing that students also need to understand isthat they start jobs at the beginning—i.e. the bottom of the heap and can expect to move around while finding whatthey love to do or the place they love to do it. Those of us who call ourselves grown-ups have done the same things in  good times and bad. The game plan needs to be realistic for now. Thatmight suggest not taking on huge college debt but considering starting at a two year or a public institution and transferring if that makes sense. It means planning on living at home for a year or two or having a bunch of roommates.

What we also know however, is that you earn more with a college degree  and are less likely to be let go. Look at the stats for who is unemployed now and who is not. Approach college with a bit of calm and self-possession—finding ways to manifest individual excellence and the chances of a good outcome are not guaranteed but a hell of a lot better and happier.


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