May 2010 Graduation Season

You know the pomp and circumstance.  A time when all of us pause and watch friends or family strut their moment upon the stage with optimism and digital flashes.  We say, “What a success you are!” As if it is an American right that our next generation has more opportunities than the last one.  Perhaps you sat in the audience, reflecting on your graduation, or the economy, or opportunity.  What do you advise a graduating senior today?

  • The statistics are horrible
  • Just 20% of graduating seniors expect to find employment in their field of study
  • 40% of graduating seniors from 2009 are underemployed; they are now competing with the 2010 graduates
  • The Return on Investment for a 4-year $250,000 liberal arts degree remains lower than a “professional or technical” field such as engineering, finance, law or medicine

And so I looked at my niece, the valedictorian in a rural school, headed to one of the most select liberal arts colleges in the nation.  She sat alone, after a long day, surrounded by awards and anxiety.  What do I say?

1)      The money will come

2)      Take it a year at a time

3)      Be kind to your parents, relatives and any potential giver

4)      If you excel, the college will provide even more scholarship aid

5)      The market always needs exceptional people, so push through.  Learn as much as you can.  Follow your curiosity.  Keep your faith that there will be more opportunities ahead

Naturally, I stated all of the above.  Like any distant relative, I can be well-intentioned and hopeful.

Yesterday’s graduation ceremony and late night talks reminded me of college.  Like any good BS session.  That afterglow of blustering conversation with few specific decisions.  Half-formulated ideas.  Inadequate data to support generalizations.  Now I am sitting in the airport and realizing what I could have said.

1)      I have no clue.  No one knows the future.

2)      We are doomed.  Global economic and social interests are colliding with inadequate privacy and technology.  The result will be chaos.  Bunker down with a gun and cash and prepare for the worst.

But I could not state those perspectives.  Yes, they exist.  However, I do not believe them.  And so I encouraged my niece to design her future.  American idealism trumps pessimism.  Faith trumps fear, every time.

We measure success by our actions and our faith.

So, what are you saying to the graduating seniors in your world?

How are you supporting their dreams and careers?

Give me a call at 704.895.6479 and share your answers.