So earlier I wrote about how sometimes, university students can say really mean things to recent graduates (read post here). I wanted to be fair and discuss the root causes for the insensitive comments. Now I could go into market research/public opinion research mode and create a short survey — but ain’t nobody got time for that!
Instead I will use myself as an example. You see, when I was a student I was exactly like many of people I described in the previous blogpost. I judged people for not finding jobs and if they were working a Jill job, I judged them for doing something ‘beneath’ them. Needless to say that in my time on the job market radically changed my mind and that now I recognize that there is dignity in any position, and that one’s job does not define their future jobs or their intellectual capacities.
So how do we get to the point of being so critical of each other? To the point of being so bitchy? My answer is that we are surrounded by myths from a young age that do not get addressed before we have graduated.
Myth : Get good grades at school, go to a good university and get good grades there and then you will get a job. Eventually, you will buy your own house, get married and have kids.
Reality: We should be telling people to mind the gap between university and entering the professional workforce. For many people, the reality looks more like this:
Go to school –> get good grades –> go to university –> intern/volunteer/ work x repeat throughout degree –> | unemployment| –> get the job that you were hoping for.
Canadian statistics say that on average 88 percent of graduates are employed within six months of graduation (but that could really mean any job. I was employed within four months of graduation but it was not permanent). However, most people will have found a position within two years of graduation. And unemployment doesn’t only happen to Arts students; as the comic series Wasted Talent illustrates, engineers can also go through unemployment. In fact, I know an engineer who has been unemployed for, at least, two years. All of this is to say, that the relationship between university and the workforce is not that evident. Finding a job is not something that happens instantaneously. I, and several of my other peers, thought that we would all score positions within one month of graduation. Yep, that expectation got rapidly revised.
Myth: We should only admire people who managed to get a job offer before graduation. If you haven’t gotten one before graduation then you failed. If you are working a McJob, then you truly, and utterly are doing nothing with your degree.
Reality: Even when people intern and volunteer, they may not be aware that the summer of third year is when most of the recruitment occurs for job offers extended before graduation. They may not feel confident enough to apply to companies that could offer that type of security. And some companies, such as, management consulting firms, blacklist you for two years, if you fail their recruitment process–which can serve as a very powerful dissuasion method for a university student. The student may also be going through some personal, financial or other type of problems preventing them from applying. So to summarize, people may not participate in the graduate student recruitment process because of a) lack of awareness, b) lack of confidence or perceived skills mismatch and c) miscellaneous reasons.
Therefore, it is not fair to expect all students to have secured a job before graduation. Now about the Jill job. People have bills to pay. A monthly pass in my city, Vancouver, costs 91 dollars a month, the equivalent to a full day of labour at a $12/hour position. In some cases, people also have to start repaying their loans, or maybe they have to pay rent or maybe their phone bill. As recent graduates, we no longer get student discounts (unless we cheat our way to get them) and so the fiscal responsibilities suddenly start appearing. Can you really blame someone for trying to make ends meet? And even if that person doesn’t need a Jill job, can you blame them for deciding to structure their time instead of facing unending hours of agony?
From a young age, we are taught to admire prestige– prestige is the unattainable. It represents you being the creme de la creme. We admire the high school students who are valedictorian in their class, do a plethora of extra-curriculars and remain popular in their school. Prestige heightens a sense of accomplishments. However, the truth is that it should not be that way. Jobs do not define a person’s worth or contributions to the community and if they do, like Barbara Ehrenreich who wrote Nickel and Dimed said,
“[t]he ‘working poor’… are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.”
Being critical of one’s thoughts is difficult ; yet, remembering that everyone has dignity in their line of work has helped me immensely in my interactions with others.
Myth: Grades matter.
Reality: Only sometimes. Some jobs, such as management consulting, commercial banking or investment banking, will truly care about your grades. In fact, my last position at Company 1, was in none of those fields, yet they asked me to send an unofficial transcript along with the rest of my application. Nonetheless, many other positions do not require grades. In fact, now that I think of it, I do not really see how grades always demonstrate ability. In certain classes, the top marks were given to those who knew what appealed to the professor’s taste and not to those who thought most critically.
Of course, there are many other myths that could be addressed. I think that The Travelling Epicurean does an excellent job of addressing them in his/her blogpost called “What College Never Taught You.” I hope that this blog post started unravelling some of the root causes for the division between university students and recent graduates. At the end of the day, the short answer is that students have not woken up and smelt the coffee.
That’s it from me. xox S.