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What will you do with this paper?

I saw a picture the other day of a student in cap and gown, eating alone in a restaurant; he seems to be wondering about something. The caption read: "I just realized that I have gone from undergraduate to unemployed". How sad. How true.

Yet it seems that those still in college--whether freshmen or seniors--have not, or have refused to, grasp the seriousness of the situation. Newsweek (Millenial College Graduates: Young, Educated, Jobless. Leah McGrath Goodman, 05/27/2015, 6:22 AM) writes that "This spring, an estimated 2.8 million university graduates will enter the U.S. workforce with bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees..." While the national jobless rate hovers about 5.5 percent, of younger workers, those 18-29 years of age, nearly 14 percent are unemployed.

How much research, thought, and consideration have these students given to precisely where they are going, or wish to go? In my classrooms, I often ask students what they plan to do after graduation--in more cases than I would care to mention, they simply do not have a clue. They are walking away with tens of thousands of dollars in education debt, yet no inkling of a road to follow. Worse yet, many students opt for the easy street: they look for the easy courses, the easy degrees; something that will qualify them as university graduates. My goodness, for what? Why?

People study to become productive members of society. To contribute to the business world, to the community, to the family, for the betterment of all. Or maybe not! They study so they may be qualified for ... well ... something, anything. They have been told that they must have that piece of parchment to get ahead--forget that many people have gone through school, but school has not gone through them. And, truth be told, unless one has a pedigree from the exclusive club of the very best rated schools (where contacts were made and relationships established), where one may be selected by a major company even before graduation, one will be in the arena with multitudes other folks, who have a degree and not much else.

What if people attempted the picture-painting approach? Strategic thinking (before strategic planning, which is far too often neither strategic, nor a plan).

Take a look at perhaps five years into the future. Where do you see yourself? Where do you want to see yourself?

Where do you live?

What car are you driving?

Where do you contribute your knowledge, skills, time, energy? (I did not say "where do you work?" Unless, of course, all you want is a "job")

Are you married, single; kids, no kids?

Where are you spending your vacations and leisure moments?

What are you studying so as to keep yourself on the cutting edge of your career?

The list can be quite extensive, and you must continue with your own questions.

You may find two or three scenarios that are pleasing. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to pursue three different avenues in life. Yes, you can, assuming you are willing to dedicate numerous years to one before moving on to another--simultaneously, probably not.

With these questions and dreams, proceed to paint a picture of you at that moment in time. Immerse yourself in each picture so that you are able to select one preferred stage. Then begin a backward trek, analyzing each step that you will need to take, each course that you will need to study, the people you will need to meet, the places you will need to travel, to get you to where your picture will be complete.

In other words, begin with the end in mind then design the avenues that will get you to your goal. While it is true that there is no road, as each of us makes his/her own road as we walk (should you find a road already made, it is a road made by someone else for their purposes; a road you should not choose), this method helps you build your own future by carefully deciding where you seek to be, and precisely what you need to get there.

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