This weekend I had the good fortune to spend time with my son, who is studying over 2,000 miles away at Auburn University. A senior in the Industrial Design program, he has been working tireless hours in studio, designing, building prototypes, presenting, accepting criticism, and re-designing. What a delight it was to visit with him in his own environment and share in his enthusiasm of his studio projects, professors/peers, promising ‘side’ business and upcoming professional journey. It brought back memories of that pivotal time in one’s life where you transition from student to ‘real life’.
In typical college style we drank beer, grazed on chili cheese fries and had lively debates about design, the presidential election, football, and most importantly, ‘will I find a job after school?’ I was troubled by the degree of worry, fear and concern he and his friends had about their future. I heard statements like:
“Which president will be best for the college grad?”
“No longer can you pick the place you want to live and then find a job… you must find a job and that’s where you’ll live.”
“My buddy had to pay to fly to a city for an interview and they didn’t even hire him! How can I afford to do that?”
“How do I let them know I’m really interested in the job? My professor said not to contact the employer too much or I’ll be considered a nuisance.”
“Will I make enough money to pay off my student loans?”
“What skills and computer programs are most important?”
“Should I provide a full portfolio or just a ‘teaser’?”
With each question, I just wanted to hug each student and let them know, “It will be okay!” However, I knew in my heart the difficulty they will have in finding that ideal employment (which is to them, is simply a ‘job’).
I proceeded to provide to them the same pep talk I’m sure they’ve heard from their parents and professors – their eyes and ears intent on my every word hoping maybe I would provide them with the secret ingredient.
But, what I feel more compelled to do is provide a ‘pep talk’ to their future employer. Something like this…“Give them a chance… treat them respectfully… provide them with skills, experience and mentorship! These hard-working, determined young adults are groomed and ready to start their profession – attacking the ‘working world’ with more ambition and devotion than those before them who may have been handed an easier path. They’ve battled professors trying to ‘weed them out’, peer competition that emulates a Wall Street trading floor, student loan burdens, bad roommates, etc. Help their transition – pay it forward. They are our future, let them begin!