Graduation speeches tend to be a mix of advice and calls to responsibility. Most tend to cover a broad patch of issues. Given the difficult job market high school and college graduates are entering today, perhaps a speech that advises and cajoles responsible actions to navigate the labor market is called for.
Here’s my career advice and call to action.
Congratulations! You have heeded your parent’s advice to work hard in school and get the best education possible, with the implied promise that by doing so you will do well when you graduate. You held up your part of the bargain, but unfortunately the economy you are entering is not holding up its part.
You are entering a troubled labor market that doesn’t have enough jobs to go around for all new high school or college graduates. Some of you will do very well indeed, especially those of you who have gained some work experience while in school and especially those of you who were fortunate enough to work in summer or co-op jobs and are now invited to join that organization on a full-time basis working in a career that uses your education and skills. Others with highly marketable technical or so-called STEM (science technical, engineering, and math) majors also face somewhat better prospects than those of you who followed your dreams to study literature, history, or the arts.
Many of you, perhaps one-third or more of you, will not find jobs that put your education to work. You will be what some called “underemployed” in part-time, temporary, or low-wage service jobs. Beware of the liability of these gigs. They not only pay little now; if you stay in them and can’t bridge to a relevant career you are likely to experience long-term limits on your income and career advancement goals. So the advice here is take these jobs if necessary. However, view them as stop-gaps on a continuing effort to get the skills employers are looking for.
Read the full post at Fortune.
Thomas A. Kochan is a professor of industrial relations, work, and employment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. He is author of the book, Restoring the American Dream: A Working Families’ Agenda for America.