Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Transitions...Part Two (College to the Real World)

College to the real world....
Now this transition is really something! Not that the transition from high school to college isn't, but for some reason the "layers" are deeper with this transition. What do I mean? Again, think back...You've graduated from college. Over the course of four years (for most) you now really know the campus, where things are, how to find things, how to access information; you have friends, you've developed a routine. OK, your routine may start at 10/11 a.m. and it may end about 2 in the morning, but it's more or less a routine. You know where you can go to get work done, you know where you can get food (already made), you know where to find your friends, you can usually just walk down the hall of your dorm and there is instant gratification....FRIENDS.... someone else most likely is paying tuition, room and board, or somehow that's taken care of....maybe you've lived off campus for a year so you've experienced some of the semi "real world", but not really. Semi, because there's been some bill paying and juggling who's paying what, who's contacting the landlord, etc. But it's different. It's not really the real world, you still have people around you that know and love you....

OK, now for the real world. Most likely you've moved to a city. You may not know a soul or only know a handful of people and they're not your bffs from college or even high school, maybe you're lucky and some of them are. Nonetheless, they're all spread out all over the city. With any luck your move to the "big city" is because you've got a job there. That's a whole other blog. You've had to figure out how to find an apartment, find a roommate, and that's the tip of the iceberg. The biggest change from your last four years is the instant access to people you know and their proximity to you Your comfort level is on tilt. How do you meet people, how do you meet people you'd like to do stuff with? There's suddenly a realization that the Admissions office of your college did you a huge favor, they provided you with dozens and dozens of people that were potential friends. Now you're on your own.

Your schedule or time clock is so different to what you'd become accustomed to in college. The workplace expects you to be at work and ready to work by 8 or 9 AM. Novel idea, but that means budgeting your time accordingly. Are you a morning exerciser? Or are you better at working out at night? Someone has always told you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but you haven't actually eaten b'fast for years, at least not while at school, but this whole working thing, makes you hungry. How long does it take to get to work, how are you going to commute there? When do you squeeze in grocery shopping, doing laundry, going to the bank, paying bills, doctor's appointments!!!! The list seems endless. How do you get all of this stuff done AND work AND meet people AND socialize AND exercise...this can be daunting...this can be scary and this can be lonely...and us parents seem to have forgotten this.

The communication shifts. Welcome to the real world!

The workplace: Low man on the totem pole. Nine times out of ten that's usually what they are. So what if they have a college degree, that's assumed. They've got to 'earn" their pay, their place, the respect, responsibility...this is a tough adjustment coming out of a college experience where they've been encouraged to think on their own, take on responsibilities, be in charge of something (a frat, a school newspaper, an RA....), challenge ideas, take risks, try something new, and they're told they can "have it all"...all of which are absolutely part of the college experience, this is a "safe place" to test the waters. But in the workplace, it's different. One of the most challeging factors seems to be age differences: you no longer are surrounded by people all of your same age group. Where your age group is the majority. The people you report to are either Boomers or Gen Xers. Maybe your son or daughter has a job with peers like at Google or Facebook, but that's certainly not the norm. Now your kid has to try to figure out how to "do this" , how to do the work at a satisfactory level, but for whom? For the employer, the boss, the team, themselves? How are you evaluated? How often? Very different than a report card after every semester.

The apartment: assuming there's a roommate: who's responsible for what? The rent? The various utility bills? Calling the landlord when something goes on the fritz? Cleaning the apartment, taking out the garbage...

Meeting people: you don't know anyone. What are your interests and how do you pursue them? Do you socialize with people from work? What about date people from work? Have you ever heard the term, "you shouldn't dip your pen into company ink?" Is that realistic? You spend a lot of time with these people. What happens if you do decide to date someone from work, what happens if it doesn't work out, and there you are, every day, working with that person. How do you get "out there?" Join a workout facility. Volunteer in an area that interests you. Take some classes at night. Join a team. Go to church, temple, a place of worship. More and more museums are focusing on this age group, starting up "social hours."

What's different with Gen Y is gone are the days of 50 years with a company and the gold watch. We haven't seen those days either. These kids aren't taking their first job out of college and thinking they're in it for the long haul. So not only are they transitioning from college to the real world, but they're real world and our definition is different. Somehow we have to each come to terms with how they're going to support themselves. And the pivotal words in that sentence are "support themselves."

They could be telling you that they are headed out of the country to teach english as a second language or they're going to work for Teach for America or the Peace Corps, which is a two year stint. They may say they're headed for the mountains and they're going to try to piece it together working for a ski company or a restaurant or both for a couple of years, trying to get in all of the ski days they can. "What's the rush?" "I have the rest of my life to work?" As a parent you just might envy this thinking, I sure didn't feel it was OK to do this. Bob and I have often said "we want to come back as one of our kids." From where I sit, they've got a pretty good gig. But I don't actually say that (well, I have now), but even in these lousy economic times, they've got neat opportunities. As daunting as this transition is and can be, somehow they survive. As I've said before, listen, lots of listening.....

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