Friday, February 17, 2023

Surprise! Surprise! Survey finds college graduates are not emotionally ready to enter the workforce

 Before the French signed an armistice with Germany in 1940, France and England were allies against Hitler. One of their first major joint ventures was a plan to invade Norway and deprive Germany of the iron ore that the Nazis needed to wage war.

British, French, Norwegian, and Polish forces attacked German troops at Narvik, the leading Norwegian port for exporting iron ore. Ten times larger than the Germans' defending force, it took the allies a long time to dislodge the Nazis. Then France and Great Britain threw their victory away by abandoning Norway to send troops to deal with the Wehrmacht onslaught in France.

British General Claude Auchinleck, reflecting on the Norwegian campaign, expressed disappointment with his country's army. "By comparison with the French, or the Germans for that matter, our men for the most part[,] seemed distressingly young, not so much in years as in self reliance and manliness generally."  In other words, in the spring of 1940, the British army wasn't up to the dirty job of defeating the Nazis.

Something similar is happening with American college graduates. A recent survey of recent college graduates by the Mary Christie Institute concluded that many recent college graduates aren't emotionally prepared for the world of work.

"Our findings found that once in the workplace, young people continue to struggle mentally and emotionally," MCI reported.  Overall, more than half the respondents reported mental health problems, with women reporting more mental health issues than men (p. 4).

Disturbingly, almost 40 percent "of respondents said their college did not help them develop skills to prepare them for the emotional or behavioral impact of the transition to the workplace" (p.  5).

Over half the respondents said they experienced burnout at least once a week (p. 4). Not surprisingly, graduates with heavy financial obligations reported more anxiety than their peers who were not excessively burdened by debt.

The MCI authors pointed out that the COVID pandemic probably contributed to the stress and anxiety young college graduates are facing. And I'm sure that's true.

Nevertheless, the MCI report highlights the fact that colleges need to do more to prepare their graduates to be confident and successful workers. Unfortunately, I believe colleges are contributing to their graduates' anxieties by placing them in an artificial environment that is very different from the corporate workplace.

First, grade inflation is rampant throughout higher education, which means that students are getting good grades without doing much work. Many perceive their stellar report cards as participation trophies--they get a good grade if they just show up for class. That attitude often transfers to the workplace, where college graduates' perception of work conflicts with employers' expectation that their professional workers do their best to excel.

Second, students who graduate from college without trying hard may believe their bachelor's degrees prove that they are more intelligent than most people.  In fact, someone who graduates with a high GPA from a humanities program at a mediocre college often doesn't know anything that would be useful on the job.

Finally, colleges that cause their students to take on heavy student-loan burdens are increasing their graduates' anxiety when their student loans stop, and they have to pay their rent and monthly student-loan payments.

Bummer!







1 comment:

  1. We're missing at least half of the story here.
    The mental health problems reported tells me there are more challenges and stressors in the work environment impacting the well-being of new workers. These have been increasing over time.

    Obviously, a key factor is the low status of new workers, and their lack of relative power; the lack of employer commitment to new hires, the lack of relevant training in lean-and-mean corporate cultures that have cut back to the bone since the re-engineering craze of the 1990s, leaving only OJT (on the job training), 60 and 80 hour weeks, and an increased competitiveness in all aspects of life, including competition for available jobs.

    New hires with little or no experience are expected to replace those with decades of experience that are now retiring; truthfully, there is no way to replace them, as this survey shows.

    Job insecurity, for example, has been one of the key factors driving the expansion of online diploma-mill quality degrees, largely as a defensive strategy against job loss and demotion.

    Although some workplaces may be more toxic or harmful to mental health than others, on average American workplaces have become more toxic and harmful. The gap between good and bad jobs was widened, a phenomenon called the 'polarization' of the work place.
    Professionalization, long held to be an adequate defense against all incursions, such as these, is no match for computerization and the endless digital surveillance of the worker in the workplace.
    Results like these are to be expected, given contradictory deskilling/upskilling changes in the workplace.
    What else would you expect?

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