Do you have a recent college graduate who is unemployed, or if they are employed, dislikes and maybe even hates their first job? Well, do not feel bad, because by all estimations, at least half of all recent graduations are either unemployed or underemployed (working a job that does not use either their education or their ambition). It's difficult deciding who should feel worse, our kids or us.
The children of baby boomers (our kids) are going to college in record numbers. There are more applicants to American universities today than at any time in our country's history. There are also record numbers of foreign students flocking to American universities taking up a limited number of seats. Our college track and soccer teams have very talented South Americans, our swim teams include world class Australians and the University of Colorado's entire ski team is European. As a result of this growing imbalance of supply and demand, the price for each college seat continues to rise.
When you and I went to college, the monthly cost was equal to a car payment. Today it is a mortgage! I have three kids all heading to private universities. The average cost of one year of private college is approaching $ 40,000. State schools are quickly approaching $ 20,000. Today, it's not just a diploma, it's about the “campus experience” with multi-million dollar student centers, laptop computers, cell phones, cars on campus, semesters studying abroad, and semester breaks in the Bahamas. In my next life, I want to come back as one of my kids!
As our children near graduation (in four or more years), we hope that they get what we paid for – a good job with a good future, because we want our kids to be happy and successful. But, what do you get from a college for that $ 80K – $ 160K education. Well, you get the right to put “_______ university” on the rear window of your car and the privilege to brag about your child at parties. You get a child who learned a lot about social life, living on their own (financed by you), and a child who hopefully graduates with a degree in their major major in four years.
Now what do not you get for your college tuition? You do not get a child with a job, and you do not get any long-term career strategy or guidance. You have to do that yourself. That's because they do not teach Career Management in college. They do not teach you about life, how to decide what job is best for you and how to get the job that is best for you. They do not teach you how to perform in your job, how to deal with peers or a difficult boss, or how to ask for a new job assignment. They especially do not teach you how to lead or how to handle the adjustment to the culture of a new organization. They just do not do any of this stuff. Why? Because they do not have to. It is a seller's market and they are the seller.
As the cost of college goes even higher, you will hear about creative job help programs being supported by universities. However, colleges have only so much money for career programs, and it will never be enough to adequately support every student. Let's face it, after graduation, you are on your own. So, you and your child have to take control of the situation.
If you are one of the millions, yes millions, of baby boomers who has an underemployed and unhappy college graduate, you need not be ashamed. But, you do need to take action. Not the kind of action you may have taken when your child was 12 years old, and you did it for them. You need to help them help themselves. If you want to get your kid off the payroll and on the way to personal satisfaction and happiness, you must do the following 3 things:
1. Let them know you understand their challenge. Hey, despite being a little bit spoiled, your child is undergoing one of the most significant transitions of their life. Without judging them, start having discussions (listening much more than speaking) about the difficulty of leaving the college life and the support community and 4 year predictable life they left behind.
2. Help them help themselves. They must find their own goals and motivation. Encourage them to articulate and gradually commit to short and long term goals that really motivate them. Encourage them to visualize what they want their future to look like. Then ask them to decide how committed they are to achieving their goals.
3. Help them develop a plan of action towards achieving their own independence. Help them develop a plan of action aimed at achieving professional satisfaction and personal independence. There is a host of responsibilities that they must accept, but building and gradually executing an action plan is the only way to start.
These 3 steps are meant to be executed over time, but with conviction by both parent and child. You do not want them being dependent on you forever, and believe me they do not want to be, either. So work together but start work today.