Faculty just don’t understand

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“Dr. Drape, you just don’t understand what it’s like to be 22 and having to decide between happiness and money.” Ha! What a week–And may I add: what a difference a decade makes.  Weekly meetings went well this week and I suspect to be getting some great final projects from students. As we wrapped up a meeting this past week, I engaged the student on his job search and how it was going.  He has two great offers from two very different areas of his interest and degree area.  One is with a big software development company on the west coast, the other is funded through a government grant program that would work on making cars safer in crashes.  As he verbalized the thoughts going through his head, he kept having the same argument that many of us have: for love or money? This student was consumed by the almighty dollar sign and in his millennial upbringing I was not surprised.  What I was surprised by was the fact that he knew he should pick the job with lower pay but with more challenge.  He had ZERO excitement in his voice when he talked about the position out west with the big company.  No excitement, no smile, in fact he sighed when he talked about it.  His shoulders dropped, and he returned to the fact that he needed a new car and wanted to buy a house.  I countered and asked him, “will you be happy with a car and a house if you’re stuck in a cube writing code all day?”

There were several things about this conversation that stuck out in my mind.

  1.  Does this student think that I was never his age, graduating from my undergrad, and having to find a job?
  2.  How much money does this kid think I make?  Let me share with you: it’s not much!
  3. What is driving decisions?  Just money?  Clearly this young man wanted to follow his heart, but the number on the piece of paper that was being dangled in front of him like a carrot to the horse was so alluring and intoxicating.  I fear for this guy.  He will either sink or swim.
  4. Who is guiding these young graduates?  I know I’ve mentioned this troubling thought I keep having, but on the flip side of the coin, you can’t reason with a 22 year old very often if I remember correctly.

In the end, I tried not to ‘mom’ him to death and shared that I had once done all of those things and that in the end, I wound up choosing happiness and taking a cut in pay. I hope that he finds happiness in whatever job or career he ends up in.

As a new faculty, how do you advise students?  Which part of your brain do you think with when working with them?  Do you keep it all business and not get to know them?

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