The other day, 20-year-old Andy said to me, “I just don’t know what I want to do with my life, and I worry that I’m not going to get a good job when I graduate.” In the past year, I have heard this concern so many times from students that I decided to write…
An open letter to college and high school students
Don’t worry when people tell you it will be hard to find a job because_________ [select from below]:
- The economy isn’t strong
- You don’t get top grades
- You don’t know what you want to do with your life
- You can’t/didn’t go to a “top-name” college
- You took time off before, during, or after college and waited tables, cashiered, traveled, or played in a band.
- All of the above.
What the doom-and-gloom folks don’t understand is that they have something as contagious as the H1N1 virus– anxiety. Like the flu, they are probably carriers without even realizing it. You need to innoculate yourself.
If you ever decide to join the world of business, one of the things you will learn is that fear spreads at the speed of light (you can probably learn this lesson in other places too). The good news is that you can build your immunity to fear. Thinking about your future life is a good place to start.
To resist fear, you need to know that good news is all around you, if you will just look. When it comes to fear about your future, begin building immunity by giving yourself:
5 reasons to believe you can get a great job
1. You have gifts, strengths, talents, and interests that can take you a million wonderful places in life.
Some of your innate abilities probably aren’t being fully used in school but the more you get out in life and use them, the further you’ll go. A good test is this: are you doing things that interest you, excite you, cause you to lose track of time — get in flow? If not, try something that has even the slightest interest for you– just dip your toe in and see what you think. If that one doesn’t do it, try something else.
2. Big companies are not the best source of new jobs.
Companies with fewer than 10 people are. So when someone worries about layoffs at Fidelity or that Goldman Sachs isn’t recruiting on campus any more, smile. Know that your job could be at one of a million small companies — or even at one of these big ones. Know that you might not find your job on campus, but no worries — there’s one out there for you.
3. Thousands of people are getting new jobs every day — in this economy. You can too.4. This isn’t your father’s economy
You can’t see what’s ahead by looking behind and yet people often forget this simple fact. They look back 20 or 50 years and predict the future of good jobs based on what was good in the old days.
Remind the naysayers that cell phones, laptops, Google, iPods, and genomics weren’t even words your parents knew at your age, let alone billion-dollar industries.
Since the age of 30, I have not held a job or run a business in a field that existed when I finished college. The same is true for you. The jobs you will hold in 5, 10, or 20 years probably do not even exist today.
5. Many, many, many wildly successful people were not good students.
Take a look at the Top 30 Dyslexic Entrepreneurs for example. I can give you loads of others and if you start asking around, you’ll find them too. (If you’re a good student, don’t worry — you can be successful too!).
What to do INSTEAD of Worrying
Boost your immunity to bad news by giving your attention to all the good things around you and ahead of you:
- Stop reading or watching traditional news and replace it with good news.
- Think of something you did well in a summer job, a club, or an activity and tell yourself 3 reasons that could happen for you again.
- Write a positive future story. Pretend you’re 30 years old and describe why the past 10 years have been so wonderful– how everything you’ve wanted has happened.
Here’s to your fantastic future! Let me know how it goes.
Duvivier, C. (2007). Appreciating Beauty in The Bottom 80™. Philadelphia, PA: Capstone Study. University of Pennsylvania.
Csiksentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience.. New York: Harper Perennial.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2004). Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning. Penguin.
King, L. A. (2001). The Health Benefits of Writing about Life Goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27. 798-807.
King, L. A. (2009). Podcast in series, A Better You, by Caroline Miller.
Influenza en México (Virus mask) courtesy of ALTO CONTRASTE Edgar AVG.
Balloon Fiesta courtesy of agjimenez
Soil metagenomics courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory
Great article, Christine! I love your style – reassuring, cheerful and authoritative all at the same time! So many students need to read your message – and not just when they are looking for a job; when they choose what to study as well! Too many go to law or business school not because they love it, but because their parents, friends, bosses or society drilled into their heads that this was the best option.
Thanks for making the info available!
Keep it up!
Thanks, Marie Jo! Great point about choosing what to study– you’re absolutely right.
All the best,
Hi Christine, this is a great message for a time of high anxiety. I wonder what you think about the concept of “realistic optimism” and how you would respond to someone who asked, “when is the right time to start worrying?” I think a lot of people in this economy, because they were worried, because they had anxiety, they dug in and did what they needed to do to weather the storm.
On the other hand, many people tend to be defeated by their own self-doubts before they even take a first step. I think your message rings true for many people in the current job market. I’m wondering how to balance both sides of this coin . . . a philosophy that defines reality, is alert and aware of the dangers and pitfalls that lie ahead, but is also aware of their own strengths and hopeful and confident about what the future will bring.
What are your thoughts?
Hi Jeremy, thanks for your thoughts and questions! For me, it depends on the individual situation and I would say that worrying about the economy is not realistic optimism. There are jobs and people are getting them — or people are starting them (new companies). I think it’s realistic to be optimistic that you can be one of them.
You make a great point about anxiety causing people to take– or not take– action. Sometimes a small burst of fear can jump-start a desire to succeed (although as we both know, they need the positive emotion to be resourceful with that desire). Personally, I don’t recommend starting with fear (of course it sometimes infects you without warning). I recommend staying as relaxed and hopeful as possible while still taking action toward what you want– and I’ve helped people with this so I’ve seen it work.
What’s been your experience with all of this?
Great article Christine! I’ve printed it out and stuck in on my wall. Could equally apply to newly graduated MAPPsters… We are ‘walking the bridge as we build it’ as I remember hearing in class.
What I particularly like about this article is the reminder of the potency of fear and how it can spread like wildfire. Positive emotions aren’t as ‘big’ as negative emotions but certainly deserve to be nurtured to overcome our natural negativity bias which defaults to fear etc all too readily.
I am personally very inspired by the 3 to 1 positivity ratio. Rather than giving in to the fear in the current economy, aspire to experiencing positive to negative emotions at 3 to 1 or above and those employers will be knocking at the door!
Thanks for a very uplifting article
Miriam, thanks for your comment and your great points! You’re so right in saying that this can apply to MAPP graduates too. Yes, fear is potent. I love your 3:1 to get employers knocking!! I’m happy to hear it was a helpful article.
All best wishes for your career!
Hi , Christine
thank you for a brilliant article! I thought what you are saying is absolutely true. One my friends is struggling to fing the job in this horrible economic downturn. She’s started losing her confidence, and I believe that this article will hopefully lift her up!
What a great friend you are! Thanks for letting me know that you found the article uplifting and hope your friend does too.
Something to consider on the list of 50 dyslexic, successful entrepeneurs: it appears like they all also had some privileges which other left handed dyslexic, college drop outs who perhaps are not white, middle or upper class (which places them at a severe advantage to other groups).
I am just saying, it is also important to consider the limitations and obstacles that people who may not be doing as well have to go through.
This is just a note to recognize that when someone is not doing so well, we could also avoid the trap of blaming people for their “apparent” inability to succeed. I am not dismissing the idea of striving for excellence at all times, but sometimes, there are obstacles that seriously prevent individuals from attaining their goals and dreams. Recognizing that there is a flaw in the system and being conscious, aware and compassionate towards those who are marginalized within it when we are being served and succeeding because of it is something to consider.
Yes, “Something…”, I agree that there are many obstacles for people with fewer advantages. I agree that we should avoid the “blame” trap — and for me, the first key to this, especially for the disadvantaged, is to recognize their gifts and foster learning in ways that suit them.
Thanks for your comment– and for clarifying my messages. I wholeheartedly agree that we should not simply say, ” try harder and you will be one of them.” One of the biggest opportunities we could give the disadvantaged, in my opinion, is to help them develop their gifts in school.