Written by Carol Christen
Tuesday, 20 July 2010 17:45


  You can find Exhibit A at:  


   (Push play; wait 15 seconds for ad to finish)


About a month ago, in a blog post called "Creating a Life," I mentioned that adults tend to jolly teens through high school telling them to have fun and leave career planning for later.  Later arrives sometime between March and May of one's senior year in high school, when all those jollying adults begin to demand details about the future. 

How confusing.  While there has been no time set aside to make plans--or learn how to-- adults expect teens to have one.  Most 18 year olds know instinctively that if they say, "I'm going to college," adults will smile and tell them what a good choice they've made and that college is the ticket to success.

Do these adults live in an alternate reality where college attendance equals a good job?  No, but they do live in a distant reality, their past.  For some, high school represents a golden age in that past, complete with glowing memories of fun, carefree days.  They may, or may not have gone to college, but 25 years ago the universal belief was that college was the best way to achieve career and life success.  Although, like now, there were plenty of successful people who didn't have university degrees.

Don't bother these adults with the facts that these days college grads are not sitting pretty.  Going to college without a clear plan of how their studies will help them achieve life or career goals has left many recent college grads feeling duped, betrayed or frustrated that success didn't come with their sheepskin as promised.  As the National Association of Colleges and Employers reported early in 2010, just 20% of college graduates from the class of 2009, had full time jobs by last September.

Contrast this with the comments of one workforce professional,  'I can tell you that the vocational schools in Massachusetts have become the new schools of choice:  The academic content has practicality, the schools are safer, there is more diversity in programming and the stigma once attached to vocational schools is gone... All but one vocational school has 2-3 times the applicants for every available slot. Demand makes for better educational outcomes--students have something to lose if they do not perform--which then increases demand.

Students are finding employment in a variety of fields, sometimes within their career area (office tech, auto shop, carpentry, early childhood ed., culinary), and sometimes in what one typically associates with teen employment: fast food, retail, and summer opportunities.

…In the past two years I have gone to these high schools trying to get students to take advantage of a program perk,  free college courses. "What better way to use summer time?" was my thought only to find out that free college courses was not the easy sell I expected.  About 75% already had summer employment.' Chris Shannon, Director; Career Vocational Technical Education (CVTE) Consortium; Bristol Community College, MA

Which leads us back to Exhibit A.  While in Montana recently, I was interviewed by KZBK reporter Lindsay Clein.  Lindsay is recent college graduate, now employed in an industry where entry level jobs are hard to get.  She had an interest in my message that without clear career pathways, many young adults wander through the wilderness of the job market for about a decade before they find work that interests them, if they ever do.  Lindsay created a fine news segment that aired on 7/12/2010.

I am grateful to KZBK for airing the segment on What Color Is Your Parachute for Teens, and to Linsay for creating such a good one. But what I liked most was how at the end, the anchor becomes the typical jolly-teens-along adult. In a performance of pure irony, the anchor undermines the message of the segment while reinforcing the message of this post!

Check out Exhibit A:  http://www.kbzk.com/player/?video_id=3428

Have you encountered jolly-along adults?  Has their advice, or lack of it, affected you?