Graduation from college into the “real world” is a big event.
Thinking back to my own high school graduation, I remembered that feeling and the sense of hope and promise. Unfortunately, my moment of career enlightenment was still 15 years away. Between that moment and the day I decided my current career path, I endured plenty of failures, disappointments, bad jobs, horrible bosses, and uncomfortable work environments. Maybe it made me who I am today, but I certainly could have used some good career coaching early in my career!
From what I see, these are the common challenges facing today’s young folks (and I define “young” as ages 16 – 24):
- High school curriculum that requires a student to choose between a college degree and nothing else.
- Colleges actively marketing liberal arts degrees that don’t translate into marketable or even transferable skills.
- High levels of unemployment and a logjam of college grads that are competing for jobs along with seasoned professionals.
- The rising cost of college educations that translate into massive amounts of student load debt.
- Pressure from parents and teachers to follow a “traditional” career path.
So what’s a student to do?
In preparation for a move from high school to college to career, I recommend students consider the following:
- Look at current career fields and talk to professionals in those fields about its future – what is the long-term viability of this field? Where will it go in the future? What should I be learning now to be prepared for the current and future trends?
- Think about what customers and industries your chosen career path supports. Watch and read the news to see the trends. Right now if your field involves seniors (old people), then you will have about 20+ years of an expanded population to work with. If you’re thinking about the Federal government or a contractor-type job, remember that even after sequestration, you can expect federal budgets to be much smaller, leading to less opportunity.
- Think MONEY and JOB OPENING first. PASSION LATER. You’re young. Trust me, you’ll have time to do the fun stuff later!
- Seriously consider STEM degrees. I’ve been beat up before in blogs about this one but if this is where the future jobs are, get in now. You can pursue your passion later once you’ve managed to set up your household and started your investments for retirement.
- Consider blue-collar trades. As 81 million Baby Boomers are nearing retirement, many of the current tradesmen such as plumbers, carpenters, auto mechanics, electricians, machinists, etc. are retiring too. Learn a trade now and go back to college later to gain the business skills to start your own business.
- Consider entrepreneurship. Think about what problems plague you and people you know. Can you solve them? Can you make money solving them? If so, maybe that’s your path.
- Consider relocating. I watched a program a few months ago about the great Dust Bowl that devastated the Midwest during the Great Depression. When the money and the opportunities dried up, people physically moved. If opportunities in your career field don’t exist where you want to live, MOVE!
- If you do in fact choose a career in teaching, counseling, etc. just realize that your salary will be low. Additionally, if you’re thinking about these fields, remember that many of these positions are state-funded and with most states in significant debt, these positions are being cut frequently.
- Set a goal and think about the path to get there. Want to be a physician? Consider joining the military and using the Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP) to have your degree paid for. Yeah you’ll own the military your time, but you’ll get good experience and have NO debt!!!
- Finally, it’s not to soon to sign up for life insurance and begin investing in your retirement. Social Security won’t be there for you. Unless you want to be a homeless old person, invest now. Life insurance seems like a negative purchase, but if you have a family later and end up dying, you’ll want to make sure your income is replaced so your family won’t suffer economically. It only gets more expensive the older you get. Get in now and lock in a low rate!
This is the kind of advice I wish I got way back in 1982. Now it’s my gift to you. If you’re a student, it’s probably what your parents have said but often I find that kids will listen to strangers first. Consider me that stranger and listen OK?