Career16: The graduate's dilemma

By Julie Cleaver

Julie Cleaver, endures crowded accommodation and little free time while studying at AUT. Photo / Ted Baghurst
Julie Cleaver, endures crowded accommodation and little free time while studying at AUT. Photo / Ted Baghurst

As a university student, I've spent three quarters of my life in educational institutions, so it's no wonder the thought of leaving and entering the workforce makes me slightly queasy.

What will the workforce be like? How do I get the career I want? Will my degree leave me unemployed? How much will the bus cost without a student ID? These are all (mostly) valid questions that are seriously worth contemplating, especially since in many fields, the workforce is changing rapidly.

First of all, it's no secret that technology is altering the face of the earth. Humans are wired in all over the world and the way we interact, play, and work is changing because of it. Technology is moving at such a fast pace, it's actually becoming difficult for universities to teach up-to-date content. Especially for those in the tech field, by the time they graduate, there will already be a whole bunch of new material out there to learn. But that's the way things are now and students have to make sure they are up to date with what is happening in their own time.

Technology has also had an impact on the way students think. With high-speed internet and cheap airfares, young graduates now have more options than ever. The sky is no longer the limit - our imaginations are. Next year I could go to Saudi Arabia and write a book about gender equality, bike my way through Europe and blog about it, or film a documentary in Mongolia about the grazing pattern of yaks. Or do all three.

And for many of us Gen Y kids, we'll refuse to settle for anything less extraordinary.

I believe the thought of all these options is one of the main reasons talented young grads do not get jobs. It's not that they can't find work, it's that they just don't want to. A large portion of our generation loathes the idea of pushing paper in an office for eight-an- a-half hours a day.

They do not want a mortgage or a company car, they want to get the most out of life and make their careers, dare I say, fulfilling. This pursuit for self-actualisation is so common, over half of my flatmates have left their jobs - one as a radio announcer, the other two as engineers - to embark on their own adventures.

Like "talking crap for a living", as fondly described by my radio-announcing flatmate, not every career is easy to find work in. Jobs in the field of arts and media are scarce, and scoring any sort of paid position is challenging. One of my friends graduated with a bachelor of arts majoring in film, and he's only been able to secure employment as a barista. It's a classic story, and with the number of arts graduates rising every year, it's a tale that will continue being told.

In saying that, if you have passion, talent and a good work ethic, you will beat the crowd and get a job in any field you desire. Going to uni does not mean you are employable. It just means you committed to something and found a way to pass. So even though there is a plethora of coffee shop horror stories, I don't think anyone should be discouraged. Study what makes you feel alive, work hard, and chances are you'll get a good career out of it.

I am studying the risky, unstable, and highly competitive field of journalism. Though I have been warned journalism can be a lot of work with not a lot of pay, or no work with no pay at all, I'm still going for it. If I keep working my fingers to the bone, hopefully I'll be able to make a career out of it. Who knows, maybe one day I'll become the Saudi/European/Mongolian correspondent?

However, despite what I just said and what your grandparents probably told you, hard work will only take you so far. What will take you the rest of the way is knowing how to get along with people. Being likeable is probably the most important skill any human being can learn. Emotional intelligence makes people want to be around you, help you out, and in this case, employ you. I think Dale Carnegie's book, How to Win Friends and Influence People should be a compulsory textbook in every degree.

As well as being sociable, you must also be more adaptable than a chameleon to get work. It seems like every industry is under-staffed and overly busy, so to get picked and stay hired, you must be able to do whatever the heck is required of you.

"Oh so you graduated with a law degree? Great, go make a website, organise staff events, and learn how to bake healthy paleo snacks" (these are tasks asked of my friend at her first big law job).

Like multicoloured lizards, the workforce is always changing to blend in with its environment (aka society's values). However, there is one principle that will probably always remain the same: to get anywhere, you need to jump.

Jump at the opportunity to meet new people, pounce at the prospect of gaining experience, and vault out of your seat if there is ever an opportunity that will help you grow as a person.

This enthusiasm is necessary because unlike school and uni, in the "real world" there is no set path to walk along. Instead, you have to create your own trail, brick by brick. Every experience you have will dictate the direction of your path, so keep positive and start laying down bricks in the direction of your dreams. Or at least that's what me and my overly optimistic Gen Y friends will do.

- NZ Herald

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