What comes out in our talk is that they feel they are "supposed" to be on this clear cut career track. Their friends are. Their family may expect it. It's the Obvious Next Step. They are supposed to have everything planned out, you see, and get their graduate / professional degree and The Big Job. But it doesn't feel right. "What else can I do?" they ask, often plaintively.
I am a subversive. I tell them, "whatever you want." I tell them, they don't HAVE to be on the pre-MD/PhD Career Track. We talk about practical things they can do with a degree in life sciences: from working in a lab, to developing interest in business, policy, law, science writing, administration, public service. Maybe they should consider a few years with Teach for America or the Peace Corps. Or maybe having a job that is sufficient for 9-5 but allows them time to develop their interest in the arts, music, or other creative or meaningful endeavors outside of work.
The scary thing to my students is that there's no path to this: no signposts. They have to figure it out for themselves. They've been so programmed that that's very disconcerting. And, it feels a bit like failure. They are around high-achievers who are going to get into every med school to which they apply. Striking out on their own is hard. We talk about how to look for people (particularly alumni) who may be an interesting area, to do informational interviews. We talk about how there's much more to life than job titles and enjoying what you do and making a difference is important.
They generally react with relief to this. It's OKAY not to be on that track. College is not just a career vocational school. Not all these kids want that high-level traditional career achievement.
So I read this with some interest:
[D]espite struggling with debt, recession, and the jobs crisis, millennials are not motivated by money. Rather, they are driven to make the world more compassionate, innovative, and sustainable. This isn’t a stereotype; it’s simply the truth.
Deloitte’s 2015 milllennial survey found that 75% of millennials believe businesses are too focused on their own agendas, rather than improving society. Only 28% believe their current organization is making full use of their skills. A full 50% would take a pay cut to find work that matches their values, and 90% of respondents said they wanted to use their skills for good....
Clearly, organizations are not responding fast enough to this generation’s desire to align their work with purpose. Millennials don’t want to move “up” on a career ladder. Overall, we are less concerned with traditional metrics of success, like savings and home ownership, and more concerned with creating lives defined by meaning, community, and shared value.And, this:
[M]illennials of color are significantly more optimistic about their future than white millennials. That is another way that they mirror the perspective of their parents and grandparents. But given the disparities in outcomes as well as the overt racism we’ve been witnessing lately, that might surprise a lot of people. It is certainly something that deserves a lot more attention.Interestingly, white millennials are less confident. Paralleling that, only 10% of white kids support Clinton, which is very depressing to me. (Now that Bernie's out, many of them seem to be supporting the Libertarian ticket. I doubt they have actually read Johnson's platform!)
But still, the data suggest that these millennials are interested in seeking meaning and doing good. And that's something hopeful.