This open letter to the parents of the millennial generation is making the social network rounds. As someone who spent a great deal of time in school and segued out with some-struggle and then some-ease, I am interested. What I object to, however, is the excessive amount of blame.
Clearly this individual is frustrated and that frustration is echoed amongst many young people. Our parents are of a generation that created the professional world for their entry only – I know a friend’s parent who runs an international architectural firm and has no post-secondary. None. Increasing credentialization drives up the years in education and as she rightly points out, young people then face a shortage of work experience once they graduate.
An undergraduate education, my example as university is what I know, provides a foundation in how to learn, really no matter your field. There are too many things to know though, information is so excessive, and technology always eclipsing us, that specialization is necessary. Skills that are not offered in the university lecture halls must be mastered. There are many, many shortages in the workforce, but they are not, alas, for Great Thinkers. They are for Great Doers – particularly doers with a knowledge of computer science.
As I was leaving Queen’s I developed a habit of lecturing quickly and then talking with my students about their goals, skills, and plans. We would discuss co-op options, how to parlay their summer jobs into Experience, and I’d refer them to people I knew who could help them. Reminded of a university prof with a crocheted sign above her desk, “The University Does Not Love You” – damnit the University ought to start, because not everyone has the luxury (read: money and time) to stay in school and read the classics. I do not, let me be clear, devalue or dismiss an arts based education. I am a fervent supporter, but I have also seen too many students shuffled into university because they get by being average. It is a disservice to them to not direct them to a field and education better suiting their talents.
So without going on excessively, I refer you to this exchange that happened in The Globe and Mail. Rob Carrick wrote an article on the importance of Boomers mentoring the young, and I couldn’t agree more. His article prompted a response which seems more measured and reasonable outlining the troubles of a 29 year old in the job market, and The Globe published it in full.
I can’t stipulate what a systemic solution may look like, particularly as there are many (not enough?) incentives for businesses to hire students and give them quality work experience. What I know can change, and I hope to embrace in my own life and career, is improving mentoring for the young. I have my job because someone introduced me to it, and it’s not the first time. We must offer help even when unsolicited, because the greatest challenge that anyone faces in a job search is that sometimes they don’t even know what questions to ask or who to address them to.
Build your network, and offer advice and connections. It is a small gesture, and I can tell you from lived experience, that it actually will change the course of someone’s life.