Are College Grads Ready for the Working World?

Blog off! 

What’s that, you say?  Is that some new curse de jour for cranky blog readers and writers to hurl at passersby by?  No friends, it’s a term coined by and an activity engaged in by some of my Twitter friends.  Since entering the strange universe that is Twitter, I have met a slew of incredibly smart, engaging, resourceful, and funny people.  I’ve tweeted with other fellow designers, architects and contractors, craftspeople, remodelers, business-people, yogis, futurists and deep thinkers, writers, artists, and musicians.  Together we talk shop, talk and opine about what’s going on in the world, and learn from each other.  It’s awesome and fun, and totally addictive.  

A small group of us, led into the blog-off forest by one Veronika Miller (also known as @modenus), are here today to answer this question on each of our own blogs in our own way.  The other participants are listed at  Believe me, these people will not disappoint, so read, comment, and spread the love.

So, the question is, are college grads ready for the working world?  Upon asking a few of my contemporaries, I was told NO, resoundingly.  Perhaps it will surprise you (perhaps not), but I am not surrounded by many recent college graduates.  In fact, the only one I really know currently is my little sister, who at age 25, just completed her Masters degree, got married, and moved to California in one fell swoop this past May.  I asked her if she thought she was ready for the working world, and here is what she said:

“Hm… prepared for the working world? I think that after I graduated with my bachelors in psychology I was DEFINITELY not ready for the working world… but that could be because I knew I didn’t really want to work in the field of psychology? That was a big part of it. But, I know I was def freaked out to be graduating and didn’t know how I was going to handle the working world. I was not ready. I was like “ohh no…. I’m staying in school!” Now, when I graduated with my masters in fitness, I was ready. There haven’t been any major “I wish I had learned THAT in school” moments….not yet anyway. I believe I had some friends that were so set on a path and READY for the real world as early as high school! They just always knew what they wanted to do and they were stuck on that path. I do think that my psych degree helped me deal with the real/working world too… since I learned a lot about people and human behavior. Maybe those with a different degree would feel different upon entering the working world.”

Do you think knowing exactly what you want to do throughout your educational process equates to better preparedness for the working world?  I, personally, do not.  It does perhaps provide more drive and focus, but that doesn’t necessarily make you ready.  I believe there is a marked difference in maturity levels between 20-year olds and 25-year olds, and staying in school to earn an advanced degree allows this maturation to take place in the relative safety of the school setting.  (There’s a great article in the New York Times about this subject, which is definitely worth reading.)

Earning an advanced degree is not always possible or desirable for everyone, though, and so we have many young 20-somethings entering the workforce with all their wild-eyed optimism and loads of piss and vinegar (I like to call this the “hot shit and a bag of chips” syndrome).   Are they ready?  I say, barely.

About ten years ago, I worked with a 20-year old guy.  I was the senior designer for a small interior design firm, and he was our draftsman, IT guy, and more or less, my assistant.  He hadn’t finished college yet, because he recently moved to the area with his family and had yet to enroll.  He did not have any formal design training and had no intentions of becoming a designer in the long run, but he had taught himself AutoCAD because he thought it would be fun (can you imagine?), and so he was working there when I started. 

Besides being scary smart, especially about computers, he was a hard worker, took criticism fairly well, and allowed himself to be “trained.”  He also had an annoying tic, was moody and socially awkward, and harbored an inordinate amount of anger towards his mother.  I liked him a lot.  And I usually wanted to strangle him weekly.  Every time I got frustrated with him, I would remind myself that he’s only 20.  He’s a baby.  He’s so young he doesn’t even know what he doesn’t know.  My god, was I like that at 20?  Probably yes (minus the tic).

Here I am; the proud college graduate at the tender age of 21.  (The little blond girl behind me is my now-25-year old sister, and the smiling lady is my grandmother.)

I had big plans!  I knew some stuff!  I was ready to take on the world, and so ready to just be finished with school and be truly on my own.  Later on I thanked (and I continue to thank) my lucky stars that I had an Arts education.  Studying the Arts, any kind- performing, fine, or applied, requires a consistent and regular level of real, physical involvement and commitment to create and complete a work, and hone your skills.  You have to practice, and you have to learn how to manage your time, or it’s impossible to meet your deadlines.  It imparts a work ethic that is different from other intellectual pursuits (which is why, in my opinion, arts education is a critical component to the education of our children, from the earliest age possible, but that is a post for another day.).

On most days, and nights, and during the wee hours, I was here:

While my roommates were doing this:

(I ended up marrying the one on the left, and don’t worry, despite all the beer, he turned out really well.)

College provides a foundation on which to build a career, a life.  Mostly it arms you with a certain set of (hopefully) marketable skills in your chosen field of interest which will require honing and refining over time, just as the person grows to be more honed and refined over time.  We were all in that place once upon a time.  It’s the reality of transitioning into adulthood.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  So are college graduates prepared for the working world?  I would say they’re about as ready as they can be.  Along with their efforts to learn and grow, work hard, and acknowledge what they don’t yet know, the rest of us more (ahem) seasoned-types need to be willing to offer mentoring and guidance, and above all, patience.

(And to my former 20-year old co-worker who is now 30 (you know who you are): I know I yelled at you a lot, and I’m sorry.  I still have our notes from the screenplay we were going to write together about the wacky world of interior design.  Good times.  Former-Boss-Man told me you joined the Marines and were deployed to Iraq last year, so please stay safe and come back in one piece.)

Here is the list of participants:

Veronika Miller @modenus
Paul Anater @paul_anater
Rufus Dogg @dogwalkblog DogWalkBlog
Becky Shankle @ecomod
Bob Borson @bobborson
Bonnie Harris @waxgirl333 Wax Marketing
Tim Elmore @TimElmore
Nick Lovelady @cupboards
Tamara Dalton @tammyjdalton
Sean Lintow, Sr. @SLSconstruction
Amy Good @Splintergirl Amy’s Blog
Richard Holschuh @concretedetail Concrete Detail
Tim Bogan @TimBogan Windbag International
Hollie Holcombe @GreenRascal Rascal Design
Cindy FrewenWuellner @Urbanverse Urbanverse
Steve Mouzon @stevemouzon Original Green
Cheryl Kees Clendenon

20 comments on “Are College Grads Ready for the Working World?

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  4. Tammy: you have described the situation to a T. We are as ready as we can be. I almost got a restaurant job out of college b/c I thought I wasnt ready. but instead landed a job (after traveling 1500 miles to apply, that’s another story. recession survival.) School cant really give us that day in day out grind of design and production and management. Its a full immersion experience. love the photo, very brave of you to share. think I’ve burned mine. heh. Cindy @urbanverse

    • Thank you so much, Cindy! I think we all share similar stories about the trials and tribulations of growing up and learning to be comfortable in our own skin. See you on Twitter!

  5. This is awesome! I’m at work right now trying to read this on my phone. Can’t wait to get on the computer and reread it. Ha…I can’t believe you quoted my whole response! If I knew you were going to do that I would have used better grammar and punctuation so I actually look like a college grad! Haha. Miss you. Will talk soon. Great article!

    • Thanks, Bridgette. I know you’re def smart! Thanks for being one of my case studies. Love ya sis!

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  7. We were all like that at 20.. well, except for me cause dogs age faster :-)

    We all need to be reminded from time to time that we don’t know everything while still probably being the expert in the room. I don’t think that feeling ever goes away, no matter how old you get.

    Great piece, thanks for sharing. I hope you enjoyed your first #letsblogoff and yeah, the thing did start out exactly as you suspected cranky blog readers. But then, you already know that about us, passionate but never serious.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Rufus! The blog off was great fun. I’m looking forward to doing it again.

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