September 05, 2011

Students Should Worry Less about their Careers

After the American Century

The academic year is beginning again, with more students than ever seeking university education. The immediate lack of jobs and worries about careers have become a constant refrain in the media, which at the same time tell us that there are not enough young people to do all the jobs that will be vacated by retirement.

Logically, the new students should not worry, because the demographics say that there have to be jobs for every one of them. Logically, they should just study what they love, and trust that a good position will be there for them later.

But we do not live in logical times, we live in panicky times, when politicians and economists say many contradictory things. Logically, the young will be desperately needed in the European and American job markets as the baby-boomers retire. But the megaphones, loud speakers and teleprompters belong not to the young but to the middle-aged, supervised by the generation about to retire. These people are worried about both the high rate of unemployment right now and the coming shortage of workers at all levels.

The students are all in a rush to find a practical career and a safe job, as though high unemployment were a permanent situation, as though job security will be difficult to attain in the future. But logically, this should not be the case. Logically, the young should not worry so much, and instead make sure they find a career that they really will enjoy.

When I look back at my own experience, it was just the opposite. I went to college at a time of prosperity and no one worried very much about what our education would be used for. We probably should have been more worried, because we were the baby-boomers, i.e. we were too many. Even so, for the most part it worked out.

Statistically, well over 90% of people with a university education do have jobs, and on average they make good money.  The problem is not getting a job, it is getting one you like.