It’s hard to be a university student nowadays. Your mind is pulled in a million different directions, and it’s hard to know what to focus on. You have classes, family responsibilities, and a social life. In the middle of that, it can be difficult to try to get practical experience in the field you’re interested in, or figure out what you want to do with your life.
I empathize with university students who say that their degree didn’t prepare them for the workforce or help them get a good job to an extent. If my life had turned out a bit differently, I would be in the same situation right now. That being said, individuals in university are not children & are capable of taking the steps necessary to carve out a career for themselves or become more employable.
It isn’t entirely true that there are no jobs for a History major, an English major, or a Psychology major. University is largely theoretical, but students who take the time to develop a specific skill set that employers value do manage to get a job after getting their undergraduate degree. I know of various people with a Psychology degree who work as lab managers for professors who do prominent research. These individuals took the time to network & develop research skills, hence they are now employed.
I’m taking the time to develop a certain skill set by blogging for Healthy Minds Canada right now. I’m learning about how to craft a well-written narrative, and how to promote my work on social media. This could lead to another opportunity that is paid, or it may not. You never know how things might turn out. I became a volunteer blogger for Healthy Minds Canada in part because I wrote an article on mental health advocacy issues for Excalibur, York University’s community newspaper. One opportunity leads to another in this kind of fashion, which proves that you can’t make something out of nothing.
The question now becomes what skill sets are considered more highly valued in the workforce or more transferable in general. It’s a hard question to answer, but that doesn’t mean young people shouldn’t try. In my experience, having a good mix of theoretical knowledge, practical experience, and a positive attitude helps. My friend Lily recently got a better job after graduating with a BA in Psychology after working in a retirement home for several years with a Social Service Work diploma.
I have more sympathy for individuals who have to work some kind of a job to make ends meet and support their families. It is tough having to manage those kinds of obligations while you’re in school. That being said, these individuals do have some type of work experience that they can leverage into getting a better job. It’s not hopeless, and people who have more responsibilities and/or face more systemic barriers end up developing skills that people who are more privileged may not develop. Besides, someone who has a job can take on side projects at work that are more reflective of their actual interests.
I may be being somewhat naive, but I believe that students & people in general will never learn or develop skills if they aren’t held to higher standards. It may be tough, but giving up in the face of obstacles just gives those barriers more power over one’s life. Additionally, even people who choose more applied areas of study like teaching, computer science, or nursing are having difficulty finding steady work in this economy. This struggle isn’t limited to a particular group of people or a particular discipline.
This past May, I introduced my friend Olivia to my friend Victoria. My introducing these two people didn’t mean that they would automatically become friends. There are various other factors, like personality & common interests, that come into play. My introducing these two people just increased the likelihood that they would develop a relationship. It’s the same with going to university. When you begin a degree, you’re introduced to the possibility that you may get a better job & improve your quality of life. Nothing is guaranteed. Students are put in an environment where they can potentially develop skills & connections, but the rest is up to them.
Society in general often forgets that the road to success or finding one’s calling is not straight and narrow. You may have to stumble or fall flat on your face before finding something you really enjoy. You may work a job you really like for several years and then decide to try something new. You may have to make some mistakes or embarrass yourself. The important thing is that you try the best you can and not compare yourself to other people. Everyone’s journey is different.
So get out there & make the best of your own personal situation! I haven’t always done this in the past, which is why I’m suggesting it now. If you have to take longer to finish your education, try to use your time still in school productively. Maybe join a club, be in a play, or talk to someone you think is really interesting. Try to think of what you really like about your current job even if it isn’t what you’re passionate about. Count your blessings, & be thankful for the good people in your world. Life moves fast, & you never know what you might learn about yourself in the process.
About Anna Dinissuk
Anna Dinissuk graduated from York University in June 2016 with a BA Honours in Psychology. She's now pursuing an MEd in Developmental Psychology & Education at OISE/the University of Toronto. Anna enjoys writing poetry, going on walks, snuggling with her cat, and playing Candy Crush Saga.