Skip to comments.Courage to buck a system that has served us so well (Please hire us - we went to Princeton!)
Posted on 04/25/2003 2:56:59 PM PDT by NorCoGOP
PRINCETON, N.J. -- Arriving as freshmen at Princeton, my classmates and I believed the path to career services was paved with gold. Jobs with $60,000 starting salaries fell into students' laps. College dropouts made millions. Stocks went up. Money grew on trees. We jumped on the bandwagon of college students with the world at their well educated, fast spending fingertips.
Then came the burst of the dot-com bubble. The tax cut. September 11th. Enron. The war in Iraq. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, applications to graduate schools are up dramatically. The unemployment rate has risen to almost 6 percent. Seniors without jobs are no longer a rarity. Sophomores tell ourselves with certainty only 19-year-olds can muster that the economy will be better when we graduate. We will be fine. We go to Princeton.
Inherent in our talks of jobless friends our frantic quests for internships and contacts is fear. Our generation has never taken risks. We work within the system. We like compromise and committees. We like success. Adding economic pressure to our desire to stay within the lines means that many of us will be paralyzed, stuck on a track chosen simply because it was there.
Introducing a recent panel on careers in international relations, a professor said he'd often seen people fall into I-Banking. Interviewers came to campus. Students got called back. A year later, they had cubicles downtown. Jobs in international relations are not so simple. The panelists, all graduate students, advised students to be open to possibilities and to take advantage of whatever luck might come their way, as though good fortune were something of which Princeton students typically try to steer clear. Though we giggled at jokes about waiting tables and seniors joining the Peace Corps because the market is bad, our laughter was nervous. We wanted to know how to get jobs, who to contact and what to say. We wanted guarantees.
A week later, I was at a second career-oriented event, this time a gathering of Princeton writing alumni. After an hour or so, one student asked the question on all our minds. "I sometimes can't picture myself as a writer because I don't know how to get there," she said. "How do I get into writing and get ahead?" The answers were what one might expect. Be willing to fail. Be persistent. Listen for new opportunities. Don't expect to make money. Only do it because you love it.
Sitting in front of the panel, I realized I was afraid. The notion of trying to write a novel, or even moving to a new city and going day after day to find a job in a market where employment is scarce, terrifies me. Like most Princeton students, my life has been charmed. I grew up in a good neighborhood. People told me if I did well in school, I could go to a good college, and I did. Perhaps it is because the system has served me -- and all of us -- so well that we are hesitant to break with it.
In a recent article in The New York Times, the director of career services at NYU advised students to overcome the job market by thinking outside the box. She told graduates to be willing to take jobs outside their fields and to accept entry-level positions to get in the door. But thinking outside the box is exactly what our generation does poorly. Perhaps the economic downturn will force us all to make different choices, to realize that investment banks and law firms are not the only places offering jobs to freshly minted college graduates. I would like to think that in these tough times we will become more resourceful and less afraid the unknown, but I know myself, and I know that I am more scared now, not less.
College is the time to search for answers to our questions, to ask how to get involved, whom to talk to, where to go. But we have to be prepared for the fact that there may not be answers. Money doesn't grown on trees, and the stock market not only can go down but often does. Every career path is rockier today than it was two years ago, and the professions we thought were uncertain then, the ones that don't have 50 listings on the Alumni Network, are even more so. We should not let our type-A drive for success, money, or power or our fear of ending up outside the realm of "acceptable" Princeton accomplishment dictate what we do with our lives. Some paths are worth forging. The best we can do is to realize that despite the unemployment rate or the starting salary of a corporate analyst, we are young. Now is our chance to make our lives what we want them to be. We should not pass it up.
Gee, my generation learned all of this from the git-go. I started at the ground level, worked my way up, accepted whatever I could to make ends meet and whaddya know? I'm finally better off than I thought I'd ever be. I'm finally in my dreamjob after 20 years of sweat. I've loved every minute of my life and work. Why? I EARNED it. I WORKED for it.
I suppose I shouldn't be so hard on them though. The hippie/me generation raised them. Figures.
I was raised by two children of the Depression. My mom's family did o.k. because her father had a good steady job as an engineer for Westinghouse Electric, but my father's father died suddenly of a heart attack when he was 10, in 1934. Things got really tough. Dad went to WWII, came back and went to law school on the GI bill (he never finished college).
My dad always said that everybody should learn a trade in addition to a profession, and he made sure we all did. If I'd been unable to land a job, I could have worked as a framing carpenter (dad and mom built our house) or as a cook or seamstress.
I don't know why these girls are afraid to get their hands dirty. It won't kill 'em, and until you have kids and a mortgage it's surprising how little you really need to live on. Just don't get married and start a family until you have your feet firmly on the ladder in your field.
This maroon equates the (non-existent) tax cut with 9/11. With that type of brain-power, no wonder he can't find a job.
I always thought the Ivy league was over-rated, and I was never impressed with their products. Here is more proof.
Ha! Must have read the silly article Chelsea, beelzebubba's daughter, wrote. As she was supposedly rushing toward or away (forgetting the details now, but it appeared in Talk mag) from the burning towers on 9-11, all she could think of was "Bush's tax cuts"!
You echo my point exactly. Your dad was right, he instilled a good work ethic in you as did mine. Nobody hands you anything in life, there are no guarantees, and your success is the result of your life experiences and attitude.
When I screen for eligible candidates it is a shame to see what the school systems churn out these days. Kids with degrees who can't spell, apply mathematics without an electronic aid, display zero dexterity skills, you name it. But the one thing that will end an interview in a split second with me is...attitude. If they display the attitude described in this article they are out the door, off to learn a little lesson in humble pie. Qualified or not. Get a clue youngster, there are no guarantees in life.