Wait! Where is the Job Hunting Manual for College Grads?
By Anne M. McCarthy
Lego® has always been a go-to gift for the kids in my life.
Did you realize there are now over 3,700 Lego products on the market? Each box showcases an image of the perfect creation – as long as you follow the explicit directions included in the box. Want to build the passenger airplane? Follow the 42-step manual, which includes getting the pilot strapped in his or her seat. How about the Empire State Building? Follow the instruction manual and your Empire State Building will feature a radio antenna (assuming you can figure out step 102).
Gone are the days of winging it. As a kid, I remember beaming when I received Lego as a birthday present or a “hand-me-down” gift from one of my older siblings. The difference between then and now? Lego was simply a creative expression of colorful, iconic plastic bricks. There were no right or wrong answers. There were no consequences if you substituted a rectangular piece of plastic for a window or a door. In fact, no one really knew whether a piece of Lego was missing until you heard a bloodcurdling scream from a barefooted parent!
Lego reminds me of today’s job market. Few college graduates have the luxury of just winging it anymore – unless you’ve graduated summa cum laude from a top university and completed a series of targeted internships during your undergraduate years.
College graduates are faced with unprecedented complexities. Entry-level roles continue to evolve due to marketplace disruption, the economy and, of course, COVID-19. Tried and true job-hunting tactics continue to evolve. As a result, the long-term consequences of failing to secure a solid entry level-job are significant. According to Burning Glass and Strada Institute, “Only 10% of graduates land a first job appropriate to their skill level and slip into underemployment after five years.” The long-term effects of underemployment are daunting. “After five years, 66% of college graduates are still underemployed.“
Many graduates find it difficult to articulate their “dream job” because they’ve spent the vast majority of their lives listening to lectures, reading required books, completing assignments and figuring out how to pay their mounting student loan debt.
Today’s job maze can be overwhelming and disheartening. Ironically, the best-selling Lego products can be purchased for about a hundred bucks and come with a 102-step instruction manual. But what about that coveted, six-figure diploma? If you’re a lucky graduate, you get to walk across the stage, shake the chancellor’s hand, bow to a hearty round of applause and exit the auditorium with a diploma printed on parchment paper wrapped in a vinyl cover.
We owe our graduates and our workforce better.
Maybe the makers of Lego are on to something after all?
*PS – fun fact: the plural of Lego is Lego 😊