This I Believe

Kathleen - San Juan Capistrano, California
Entered on May 22, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: work

A diploma for “the real world”

I’ve just come from my daughter’s college graduation ceremony, a joyous event where the message delivered by the pert, young valedictorian—vibrant in both her youthful gleam and undergraduate resume, was hopeful: This is a great time, as far as the job market, to be graduating.

I was excited to share with my daughter this very news I’d been reading all week: Across the country, I reassured her after all the pomp and circumstance, university officials are reporting that job fair employer participation is up more than 12 percent—at De Paul University, for example, there are 62 percent more employers over last year who are pitching their career fair tents to attract hungry graduates. Job postings for full-time positions are up 27 percent. As a result of companies that have previously held hiring in check now rebuilding their “bench force”, college graduates are the beneficiaries. My daughter should be relieved, as she is on the brink of several interviews—as a History major.

I’d neglected to consider that ingredient in the mix before I blurted out the good tidings of great job joy.

“Those are all accounting jobs, Mom.”

For the first time in her life, the top of the class finds herself at the bottom of the barrel in a place several of us have been as we strolled from college campus onto city streets—at least those of us who majored in English or History. But 33 years ago, after I threw my cap in the air, it was very acceptable to be in the dark—my roommate and I hadn’t a clue as to what our future, let alone the very next day, held. I worked as a checker in the small market on Balboa Island (my only claim to fame being that I was the first female to hold the job); Karen toiled behind the counter of the bikini shop down the street. Armed with our expensive educations, these were our first year careers until we could find better jobs by reading the want ads in the daily paper.

Competition is a fierce force for my daughter. How can they hope to compete when double and triple majors are currently the order of the day? When I opened the program to read of the hundreds of graduating seniors who accomplished what universities refer to as “breadth and depth” requirements, and stepped up to the dais to collect degrees in combinations such as Public Policy Planning and Development & Biochemical Engineering, I consider her feelings of inferiority.

As she begins her interviews—vying even for basic clerical jobs, about the only bridge over the gap for a History major, she has a tougher row to hoe than her mother ever dreamed of, but she is far more enlightened in her struggle to achieve self-worth.

“This must be what prejudice feels like,” muses the Anglo-Saxon, blonde-haired Southern California native who, until she went to college, had never left Orange County.

With that attitude, she will go far.

END