I meet with students each week. Some undergrad, some graduate, all checking in on projects, coursework, sometimes life in general. I really enjoy my weekly meetings with students. It might be one of my favorite parts of the week. I enjoy hearing about what they think about life things, politics, and whatever else comes out of their mouth. I also like to try and steer them to think bigger about issues, challenge them to think critically about the economy and state of work they’re trying to enter, and think realistically instead of being whimsical about things.
This week was not short of whimsy. I have several undergrads who are working on a project for me. They are super students and I am confident, each will do very well upon graduating. I met one-on-one with one of them and after we finished discussing the project, I asked, “how’s your other stuff going? Classes? Job searching?” (student is graduating in May). This student is a typical 22 year old–talented, smart, intelligent, with just enough common sense to help him out. But as I was talking to him, one sentence stuck out: “after graduation, i think i’ll just travel for a while and tell whoever i get a job with that i’ll start later on in the fall.” Huh?
While I usually entertain all of my students thoughts and ideas, this one was too good to pass up. On one hand I thought, “hey, i’m jealous, i’d love to just travel for a few months without a care and ‘check out new places’ (as he put it) for a while” while the other half of my brain screamed, “WHAT? you’d sacrifice a job just to travel with no income and no possibility of securing another position?” Oh, the joys of being 22…..These are millennials. I can’t forget this. They think big, see the world as a big space, and have been raised to think that the world is their oyster. I have to wonder: do they ever watch the news, look online, or wake up in the real world? This student had forgotten that the economy still wasn’t strong, that unemployment was still rather high, and that his demographic was moving home without a job at a higher and higher rate.
Yes, you know which half of my brain won–the side screaming. I pointed out that in this economy, waiting that long, if an offer was in hand, might not be the best course of action. He asked me why–I told him that there were 100 others out there who could start tomorrow, that if he worked hard for a while, he could go on his trip using paid vacation days, that having a lapse in employment might not work in his favor, and about five other reasons. He listened, which I appreciated, and then said, “you know, no one has ever talked to me about this stuff, you’ve got a point.” I didn’t pat myself on the back, but instead thought: why isn’t anyone else coaching these seniors? Where are their parents? Their academic advisors? Their peers? Their senior seminar?
As a new faculty, I had to be mindful of my comments, but bold with them at the same time. Since this student could not identify anyone else in his life that was helping him (I believe he has good people who are helping him though), I felt as though it was appropriate to shed some light for him. The hour ended up being productive from a work standpoint and it helped me solidify my relationship with him. I may have scared him to death, but I hope that I was able to give him some insight on what the real world is like and how to start in it upon graduation.