Advising College Students in the Age of Uncertainty

It is my joy and passion to help young adults, especially college students, figure out their professional interests and how to navigate this complex thing we call “higher education” and the even more complex thing we call “the real world.” Now is a fascinating time to work with this age group. Statistically, there appears to be a stronger number of jobs available for college graduates than in recent years. However, the competition for these jobs is something that needs more emphasis. Without being an economics guru, I imagine that there are many citizens who were underemployed the past few years (when jobs were few and far between) who are applying to some of the jobs that current college graduates would like. At the same time, technology has played a tremendous role in increasing the competition for any given job. Job opportunities can be found online in many ways with quick searches and through online platforms such as LinkedIn and Handshake, companies can find candidates using a slew of online recruiting tools, and the skills necessary for jobs include an ever-increasing amount of technology-related knowledge.

That final point is the one that I think about the most these days, as we move toward a future where innovations in technology increasingly support and at times dictate our day-to-day endeavors. This requires all of us to have at least a growing awareness of the impact of technology in our society, and many of us have to keep up with the skills to navigate this technology for the sake of our careers. From Alexa, to virtual reality, the driverless car, and everything in between, tech is making perhaps the biggest push to change our lives in this modern day – and it’s all happening right in front of our eyes. How do current college students fit in to this equation? What about the next generation of college students?

We are all trying to figure out the #futureofwork, and how to help college students prepare for it. But we must be careful not to focus so much on the future that we forget about the here and now. College students need support and stability during a period of workforce unpredictability. In essence, now is the time to help college students to genuinely believe in themselves more than ever. This is the time to prepare them with a foundation that will give them the resilience to respond to whatever the future workforce throws at them.

This is not just a skills-based thing (in fact, perhaps we can cut down on the “skills gap” rhetoric…just a bit, please?). Instead, I’m talking about helping college students to understand that it’s okay not to have all the answers, that in fact, many of us are just throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. I’m talking about making sure that college students know that what’s important is to develop their core values, their core interests, meaningful relationships with people of all ages and backgrounds, and a sense of identity that will endure despite the many social changes that will be coming their way.

This is why I cherish the opportunity to teach and advise college students. They are not just the future, they are the present. Let’s not forget to treat them that way.