November 26, 2022

An open letter to New Mexico’s 2013 college graduates

Posted on 14. Mar, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Education

Dear Student,

Your big day is about to arrive. In just a few short months you will sever your academic umbilical cord and catapult yourself into the uncharted waters of the job market.

Now I know there are many people (maybe even your own family members) who have told you to stay in school just a little while longer to get your Masters Degree. There are also some who’ve said, “In these dire employment times! Get a government job.” There’s even a third group that has suggested you pack your bags and head out of state because there’s nothing for you here. I don’t blame you if you’re in a quandary. I would be too.

No amount of well-meaning backward looks to “when I graduated college,” will help you make this critical decision, but make it you must. There really should have been a mandatory course in Crystal ball gazing 101 that could have prepared you for your future, but there wasn’t. This is one of the most important decisions you will have made during your entire four years of undergraduate study, and depending on your choice, it could have a tremendous influence on your life.

If you are a New Mexico native and have your ‘people’ here, the obvious question is, “Do you want to leave your support group behind and move out-of-state in search of employment?” For close-knit families, this is a tough one. Who wants to see a son or daughter pack up a U-Haul and motor out of sight? Not many, I’d wager.

Those of us who’ve lived farther than a day’s drive from home know what I mean when I say that moving away is a growth experience and hard to duplicate when you’re living with your parents. Moving out of one’s comfort zone sometimes means actually moving out of one’s comfort zone, physically, but these moves needn’t be traumatic. They do require a fair amount of planning, though.

Normally, my thoughts don’t automatically go out to college students, but after seeing a powerpoint generated by UNM’s BBER (Business Research Office) that painted a pretty dire picture of the New Mexico of the near future, I suddenly had the urge to do a Paul Revere, saddle up my horse and warn the students that the red ink was coming and they needed to take cover!

Then I came back to earth and realized that they’ve probably been thinking about their employment options and future for years and have a pretty good handle on what kind of work they can get. As a card-carrying member of the so-called baby boom generation, I’ve been pretty fortunate.

Apart from a dicey time in the oil crisis seventies and the recession of the mid-eighties, America has been able to offer a job (not necessarily the best paying job) to anyone who wanted one, providing you were a high school graduate or weren’t living in a part of the country hit by severe fiscal drought.

These days, even a college education won’t guarantee you a job, especially if your degree is in a less commercially-relevant or marketable area. Yes, I’m speaking of the arts here. You know who you are psych majors, art majors, etc.  I have some gratuitous advice for you now, so listen up. Here are your options:

For the ‘softer’ degreed students (liberal arts/humanities):

Option #1: stay at home and add another different degree to your education, this time one that can get you a job.

Option #2: join the army and get some practical world experience. Book learnin’ and boot camp are a good combination; ask any would-be employer.

Option #3: apply for a position with an NGO (non-government organization) to get some entry-level experience.

Option #4: join the Peace Corps and see the world for a couple of years.

Option #5: get a government job, but promise yourself to quit after four years.

For the ‘harder’ degreed students (science and business):

Option #1: Do some research on prospective employers’ cultures and make a short list of where you think you could make a difference – for them and for you.

Option #2: Take a short-term intern position if you can’t find a full-time position. Anything on your resume is better than nothing at all.

Option #3: If the New Mexico pickings are lean, move to a nearby state (try Texas for awhile; it’s close enough but not too far away).

Option #4: Find some friends and start your own small business.

There are a couple things I want you to remember, though. Your life is your life. It’s a work in progress and may take you far from your chosen field. Just be sure to keep your eyes, ears and your options open and be willing to re-invent yourself. Success, if not satisfaction, is often built on adjusting our expectations and re-positioning ourselves to changing circumstances. Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy the ride.

- Editor






















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