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The Downsized College Graduate

Employment rates for new college graduates have tanked. Are there factors other than the economy to blame?

choosing a path

Choosing The Path To Go Down

Creating Their Own Jobs

Article written by Hara Estroff Marano, who is the editor-at-large of Psychology Today and the author, most recently, of “A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting.” She also writes the magazine’s advice column, Unconventional Wisdom.

It is indeed a rough job market out there. But some of the barriers to finding — or making — meaningful work now exist more in the minds of young graduates than in the reality of the workplace.


Parents have taken the lumps and bumps out of their children’s lives, creating a risk-averse generation.
Today’s graduates have been brought up in a hothouse of parental anxiety that leads many middle-class parents to hover over their children and take the lumps and bumps out of life for them so they can focus on getting good grades, getting into brand-name schools, and, hopefully, avoiding much-dreaded socioeconomic slippage. Anything less than what their parents have is seen as failure and unacceptable; to start, that’s a mindset that needs adjustment to shifting realities.


In the face of declining job offers, what’s needed is a more enterprising, entrepreneurial attitude—if no one is going to hand them jobs, then they need to start thinking about making their own. But formal and informal studies show that innovation and calculated risk-taking are on the decline among the young, who increasingly demand structure, direction, certainty in their coursework and have no tolerance for making mistakes, despite the increasing uncertainty of the world we all inhabit. This is a generation that has embraced no-risk learning, wanting to know in advance exactly what will be on their tests and having little tolerance even for classroom discussions. Innovation is where new jobs will come from. Sure, a lot of hard work is required, but the payoffs are potentially bigger than even the best job they could get.


Short of that, almost any job has its merits. Many of the young have workplace-related skills to learn—including when to show up, how to work with others, how to set and work towards goals.


On-the-job learning is a fast and indelible way to acquire the work ethic they will need for any job.

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