PIASC Blog

November 14, 2019

College, Employment, and Reality

By Piasc
College, Employment, and Reality

I recently had dinner with a young printing industry superstar in the making. During our meal, our conversation turned to college, work, and work-life balance. I soon realized that when we take young people straight from college and throw them into the 8-5 world, there might be a problem.

First, they grew up in organized extracurricular activities from elementary to high school. The days of pickup basketball, kickball, and softball are long gone. Remember those days when you left the house, and you returned in time for dinner – or else – and you were always busy with your buddies dreaming up some type of game or competition? Well, all that’s been replaced.

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Sports activities are now organized into competitive teams with travel ball groups that play ball all over the country. “Those days of rec ball and local Little League, or just going to the park and playing ball — those days are nonexistent. They’re gone. Now, it’s all about travel,” says Rebecca Davis, executive director of the Atlanta-based Youth Amateur Travel Sports Association.

Those not involved in organized sports have grown up playing with friends over the Internet with their game consoles. They play basketball, football, and soccer with “friends” miles, and sometimes, countries away.

And, when these young people go to college, their days are filled with classes, homework, eating, sleeping, and throw in a party here or there and you have their 24/7. What happens when this student is all of a sudden thrown into 8-5? And what do they do with 5 to 8? Where is the “purpose” to be found in those hours? In my opinion, dead time without purpose leads to some unhappy people.

To answer these questions, I did what most people do, I Googled it. What a surprise! It turns out, I’m not the only one thinking about this “college to work” scenario. Many people, including a lot of young people, are wondering and misunderstanding what’s about to happen to them.

Life After College

One of the big surprises that students and recent grads experience relates to money. They tend to overestimate how much money they’ll make right out of college.

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Students graduating in 2019, include the last of the millennial generation and the first of Gen Z. These individuals have grown up with billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook (age 35); Kylie Jenner, owner of Kylie Cosmetics (age 21); and John and Patrick Collison, brothers and co-founders of Stripe (age 28 and 30 respectively).

These grads are also intimately aware of numerous YouTube millionaires like 7-year-old Ryan, who makes $22 million a year reviewing toys, and PewDiePie, who’s worth over $12 million. While not necessarily expecting to make billions or even millions, these graduates can have seriously unrealistic expectations when it comes to first-year earnings.

According to a recent study, the average undergraduate expects to make $57,964 one year into their career, while the national median salary is $47,000 for bachelor degree holders with 0 to 5 years of experience. This holds true across most majors.

With the realization of less money and high cost of living, comes the fact that they will probably find themselves back home living with their parents. According to an article in MarketWatch, nationwide, the percentage of recent graduates moving back into their parents’ homes has reached an all-time high of 28%. It’s even worse in Southern California. In Riverside, the share of grads living at home stands at 51%. In Los Angeles, it’s 38%. Living back home with mom and dad can have an “interesting” effect on a recent college grad’s “extracurricular activities.”

During my research, I came across an interesting article in Vice. For those of you over 40, Vice is a youth and young adult-focused entity in the digital communications space. I encourage you to read the article by Joel Golby entitled, What Happens to You Immediately After You Graduate from College. In his article, Golby lists several “in your face” reality checks for recent college grads. In addition to making less money than expected and moving in with your parents, he mentions:

  • Someone you hated will be doing better than you.
  • You will start your first job, and your boss will be younger than you.
  • You will realize that all the free time you ever had to achieve a creative endeavor truly is forever behind you.
  • You will learn that being hungover at work is worse than being hungover in a lecture.
  • You are going to lose a good year of your life to a sh*tty job that you hate.
  • Things will get better, eventually!

Recent College Grads and the Printing Industry

My goal here is not to dump on the “sad” life of recent college grads. What is important is that employers who are looking for a “quality” employee understand that things have really changed since we graduated from college.

In 1987, there were 140 billionaires in the world. According to the Wealth-X Billionaire Census 2019, there are now 2,604 billionaires in the world. Also, consider that the top paid YouTubers of 2018 made between $14.5 and $22 million. These stats may account for some of the unrealistic salary expectations of today’s graduates.

Now think about your company. Compare it to the workplace environment at companies that recent grads are exposed to like Facebook or Google.

Take a look at this video, “What’s it like to work at Google.” Take note of the things that make their employees happy.

Most of the positive mentions are emotional, not physical. These individuals want to:

  • Push the boundaries and go beyond what’s accepted practice
  • Work as a team
  • Learn from a more knowledgeable co-worker
  • Feel valued
  • Have the ability to take chances

These points do not require large expenditures of cash. Most of these are about attitude. It’s about the culture of the company, not the workspace or equipment. Can your company provide these same kinds of experiences?

Take time and consider your company.

  • Are you moving forward with new technologies that would allow a college grad to go beyond what is accepted practice?
  • Do you have a mentoring program in place?
  • Have you implemented team-building activities that allow employees to have input?
  • Do you encourage employees to engage in industry events, outside of their regular work schedule, that will make them feel valued?

Positive Actions to Take

As an association, we have made an effort to invite college students to our annual Print Excellence program. The goal is to help students see firsthand that printing is a modern high-tech industry.

We have also seen many PIASC members bringing their employees to the event. Sales reps, graphic designers, and press operators have been in attendance to see the value of the work they have produced.

A great way to involve new employees in the industry beyond the daily 8-5 is to take advantage of training and marketing opportunities offered through your vendors. The digitalPackagingSummit just finished in Florida. There were some great sessions that can help individuals, “Push the boundaries and go beyond what’s accepted practice.”

Also, consider PIASC’s meetings and events. Many are free of charge. They can help employees feel part of the team.

  • Encourage team competition with our Annual Toy Drive
  • Webinars
  • Conferences
  • Training opportunities

Beyond the 8-5

So, what can companies and mentors do to help these young people with their 24/7? I suggest that it is not good enough to only focus on the 8 to 5. Even the best employee, who has nothing to fill in their lives between 5 and 8, is likely to be unhappy. While we cannot “tell” them to get involved in non-workplace activities, we should be encouraging them to find “purpose” outside of the workplace, whether it is training for a marathon or volunteering at a charity.

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Most of us are involved in our communities and/or have hobbies and interests that keep us active and help us find balance in our lives. Young people that have grown up differently than most of us (now I sound like my parents) need help to adapt. We need to recognize that today’s young people are really not like us but need different encouragement and mentoring to have a fulfilling career and life.

When you think about it, recent college grads and young printing industry superstars are looking for the same things we are all looking for in a quality career. We all want to belong, feel appreciated, feel like we have a say in our future, and feel like we make a difference.

About the Author

PIASC is the largest graphic arts trade association in the country. They are devoted in helping members succeed. For over 80 years, they have been servicing businesses in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Kern, Ventura and Clark counties.

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