Upfront: From the Editor-in-Chief
JASON S. SLAKTER, MD
I read with interest the other day a column in USA Today, which described the hurdles facing new college graduates. In the United States, about 2.4 million students, the Class of 2010, are graduating with either a bachelor's or associate's degree this spring. Upon completion of their studies, these highly educated and motivated individuals will face the reality of an economy dominated by a recent recession and marked unemployment.
As the article pointed out, these new entrants in the job market will "go head to head" not only with their fellow graduates, but also with countless numbers of recently unemployed experienced workers and, more critically, with the "as-yet unemployed" graduates of the classes of 2009 and 2008. As the article further described, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are five job seekers for every opening. Certainly, for individuals leaving academia and entering the "real world," this task of finding a job is nothing short of daunting.
With the challenges obvious, it's interesting to see that other articles point out that these same graduates remain, in general, optimistic about their futures and their ability to achieve their long-term career goals. This positive outlook may help to explain recent conversations I've had with friends and colleagues regarding their children.
In some cases, these younger people have been able to secure coveted and often highly remunerative positions that seem to fit well with their long-term aspirations. However, even in their first few years of employment, they have found that the work experience and the "corporate culture" do not meet their expectations. I have heard such comments as "I can't see myself doing this in 10 or 20 years" and "I want to accomplish more and contribute more in my life than just moving money or papers around." As a result, many of them are leaving their jobs and either going back to school or striking out in totally new fields. They are making these decisions in spite of the obvious difficulties they will face going back into the job market.
On hearing these comments, I must admit that my first reactions were surprise and perhaps concern over the notion that someone might trade a "secure job" for the uncertainties of an unknown future. And yet, when you look around, the workplace is filled with individuals, often in their 40s and 50s, who really don't enjoy their jobs, having become trapped in their occupations through either inertia or the lure of financial security and reward.
I have now begun to not only recognize but admire the insight, initiative and determination of these young adults who have chosen to pursue an occupation or profession that will provide for true contributions to society and, more importantly, personal satisfaction. Perhaps we can all take a lesson from the next generation in learning to seek out those things that provide more meaning to ourselves and our loved ones — even if it means facing a bit of challenge and uncertainty.