How do you deal with a market that is changing at an accelerating pace?
One of the reasons that people can’t stand, or learn anything from economic news today is because there is absolutely no consistency to it.
It is difficult to make choices looking 15 years ahead, or a year ahead, or even a month ahead. One of the reasons that young adults (otherwise known as slightly older adolescents) are so ambivalent post-graduation is because it is difficult to assess this ever-changing terrain. The “unsureness” of the job market right now is scaring college graduates as well as incoming freshmen. So where do they turn to when they are unsure about the life deicions they are about to make? The internet of course. Bloomberg, NY Times, US News and World Report, The Princeton Review… All these bastions of information offer trends, analyses, list of best majors, list of worst majors, nicest schools, best party schools, highest paying degrees etc. for tomorrows students and todays graduates. All of it…useless. But yet it all holds so much weight. The forums at College Confidential do more to influence school and major decisions for incoming freshman more than any parent will. Your eyeballs would hurt from the kinds of questions asked there.
“Should I add on a math minor?”
“Do employees like it if I double major in this?”
“What if I take an extra year?”
Not only that, but the parents are on College Confidential too, meticulously micromanaging which schools and majors their children should pick up.
“UPenn or Berkeley?”
“Which school produces more i-bankers?”
And who can blame them? No one knows what’s coming next.
This kind of market volatility is scaring students. Uncertainty about the future market means people know little of what to do and even less of where to start. That’s why enrollment in college is increasing and why college is booming as a business with unaccreditted, for-profit universities popping up all over the country like Ponzi schemes. But that’s an entirely different beast.
If students are uneasy about the majors they choose, (students on average change majors once or twice) what makes you think that they’re trying to learn the homework assignment if its worth only 5%? You think a student studying electrical engineering is going to really be interested in learning how to do long hand Differential Equations to solve a simple theoretical circuit while there are already Fabs creating thousands of integrated chips a minute?
What that engineering student needs to be taught, or better yet, SHOWN, is that getting some number for the answer to that particular circuit through math equations isn’t as important as seeing that it CAN be modeled with math equations. And so can all the other millions of circuit variations. But since the only thing being measured is performance, students instead fall into the habit of learning and relearning how to solve individual problems because that’s what they’re going to get tested on. This is why students feel burnout. But that’s just school. What’s more important, and what weighs heavily on the minds of this generation’s students, is what’s going to happen 15 years down the road.
In this article is fantastic insight into what it means to work as a programmer; in this case, specifically Google, although it can be applied to the average American’s worklife in general. In it, author Matt Heusser estimates the average half-life of the average worker in the tech industry to be 15 years, where the skills learned become obsolete very fast as new technology kicks into place and new skills are needed. Once programmers start to approach 35, most of them have gone on to management and consulting positions. But the important part of the article was his realization that being an older interviewee in the midst of fresh and quick college grads wasn’t something to lose hope over. He realized he had a perspective that set him apart from the rest. None of the other fresh-faced college grads had the experience he had, even if they were the new cream of the crop. As he puts it so eloquently, the realization was the same shock experienced by a bird being kicked out of its nest. Interestingly enough, this is the stage in life college students must undergo upon entering the real world after graduation. It doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, unemployed or shoulders deep in a career, this is a great thing to hear.
Practically speaking, what college students need is to care less about in-class procedure and rote homework assignments while picking up projects of their own, outside of class. It gives them ownership over their career and future, as well as a direction to go in. Morally speaking, What college students REALLY need is confidence, and no, I don’t mean patting them and giving them awards for nothing. I’m pretty sure most of them have heard that they’re entitled brats already, they don’t need to be told that again. Especially not from a generation that had jobs waiting for them after post-graduation without $50k in debt. Maybe pre-med students need to be told that having to know the TCA cycle isn’t to deprive them of sleep, but to have that ESP-like intuition that doctors need on the job. Or having that art student know that, hey, maybe it will be difficult to find a job when you graduate, so START NOW and find out what other art majors before you have done after college so you don’t have to wait tables until you’re 30.
Confidence isn’t always being sure of oneself and always knowing what to do. It’s making what you consider to be the best decision with incomplete information. It’s gambling — except you know the steps to take next when you lose. Right now, college graduates need SOME form of confidence, because they are severely lacking in it. And the world is only getting more competitive.
This is just one view anyway, and one not quite qualified to judge, so if I’m overstepping my words here, just realize that it isn’t my intention to do so, but a perception is a perception nevertheless. And from observation, one that quite many, unconfident others share.