At a time when paying someone $40,000 to get your kid into college and “helicopter” parenting is becoming more and more commonplace, is it no wonder that many high school graduates these days seem fixated on getting into a good 4-year university?
A somewhat recent graduate myself, I understand this “new equation” that many young people are led to believe is the only one that will lead them to success.
Good Grades + Good College = Corporate Career + Happiness & Success
At the fancy, private, college-prep high school I attended this was the mantra that was chanted everyday: get good grades, go to a good college, land the corner office and live happily ever after. I internalized it, lived it and am working my way toward happily ever after.
But I often wonder about the careers that seem to get overlooked in today’s college counseling offices—vocational or technical careers that don’t require a bachelor’s degree. It seems that in our “education is everything” society, trade jobs such as plumbers, electricians and railroad workers—blue collar workers—face severe labor shortages as boomer-age workers retire and there are no new Generation Y workers willing to take their place.
According to Roger Thompson, Puget Sound Energy spokesman in Seattle:
“We’re very aggressively recruiting the next generation of line workers. It’s not unique to us or City Light; it’s true across the nation.”
I have several friends who decided to skip college and go straight into the electrical trade. Sure they missed out on drunken frat parties, shared living spaces and an intellectually stimulating environment, but what they gained was 4-year’s worth of income and job experience. One friend had enough saved up to buy a house by the time he was 21. Don’t know too many college graduates who can say that.
And yet I have other friends who went the college route, got that corner office and found themselves hating the corporate life. I bumped into one such college friend at a restaurant over the holidays—he was my waiter. Turns out he was waiting tables while he put himself through carpentry school. Even though he went to school full time during the day and worked double shifts at night, he said that to him, it was still better than working in an office.
I’m not advocating trade careers for everyone. In contrast to the great starting salaries and excellent benefits, trade jobs usually require long hours outside with lots of travel. But what I want to emphasize is that if you’re sitting there hating your corporate job, realize that there is a whole other world of work out there beyond your cubicle that pays just as well for what you can do with your hands in addition to what you can do with your mind.