Margaret looked burdened as she pulled a chair and sat opposite me. She actually slumped in her seat like someone who was relieved to finally put down a heavy load. We had lived in the same neighborhood more than a decade earlier and we had finally reconnected and were meeting after many years without communication.
Margaret’s children had been in the same school as my children in lower primary. So much had changed over the years. Our children were now young adults. As we did some much needed catching up over a cup of coffee, Margaret opened up to me that she was really burden about her children. Her marriage broke years ago and she raised the 3 children – 2 sons and one daughter – all on her own.
She had struggled to give her children a good education, often taking bank loans to pay the school and university fees. Her 3 children were all university graduates. The tragedy was that none of them had managed to get a job, the huge investment into their education notwithstanding.
The daughter worked in a supermarket, one son operated a vegetable kiosk in their neighborhood and the business could barely sustain itself. The other son was teaching in a private school in their neighborhood where he was paid a salary of KShs. 15,000/- a month. His training was not in education.
Education should open doors to freedom
I listened to Margaret’s tale of woe. When she was done venting, I asked her what career each of her children wanted to pursue. All she could tell me was the specific degrees they pursued. I patiently explained to her that what we study in the school system gives us power to go for our dreams and it should not restrict us from doing what we want in life.
I come across many young people with similar tales of woe about how they pursued training in particular disciplines but they have never got jobs. This especially affects university graduates. It is difficult to help these young people without the cooperation of their parents.
Having a university degree in a particular discipline does not mean that one is restricted to a specific line of work only. There is a world of opportunity for those who are ready to unleash their creativity.
One thing that parents need to understand is that graduating from the university is not necessarily arriving at one’s destination. What happens if the young graduate does not get a job? Does that mean that he or she is doomed to go through life as a failure?
I encounter many young graduates who shudder to hear the word self employment. They rush to let me know that they have no capital to start a business. I keep calm and ask for clarification what exactly the capital is for and I get answers such as office space, buying stock to sell, etc.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about what self employment really is. If for example a young lady is qualified as a nutritionist or , she can find ways to earn income from her expertise without the need for office space, stock, etc.
Technology has made it easy to package, brand and market one’s skills and expertise working online from home. It is possible to come up with digital products based on one’s expertise and sell them online. The world wide web enables one to reach millions of people without necessarily meeting them in person.
People with professional skills don’t have to be desperate for formal employment. They can package their skills and expertise into successful careers outside formal employment. There is no need for someone with professional skills to start a small business that is unrelated to his field such as a vegetable kiosk, not unless that is the line of work one wants to pursue long term.
Whether you get absorbed into the job market or not, set long term goals for yourself and whatever you do to earn income, let it not take you away from your chosen career. Every bit of work experience should build on your long term career goals.
Graduating from the university is not necessarily arriving at a destination
Building a career takes time. This is something that parents need to understand so that they give their children the support they need to build their careers. When your son or daughter graduates from the university, that is just the beginning of the journey to building a successful career; it is not arrival at their destination.
To build a successful career in this economy where the job market is not able to cope with the demand, people who graduate from the university and other tertiary level colleges are likely to need support for 3 to 5 years after graduation. They will need coaching, mentorship, financial support and probably even investing in some short courses to complement the degree.
Parents should therefore not put pressure on their adult children who have just graduated to become self reliant immediately after graduation. That can work if one gets absorbed into the job market but what happens if that does not happen?
The road to building a successful career is not always in a straight line. Pushing those who do not get jobs to end up starting small businesses or accept whatever job they can find yet those routes have nothing to do with their long term career goals might just rob them of long term career success.
When do children outgrow parental guidance?
Parents have supported and guided their children from the time they were born up to adulthood. Sometimes the support needs to go on a little longer in order to help the young adults get into the right career path. The support should not stop immediately one graduates from college or university.
There is no shortcut to success and by rushing the young adults to accept whatever is available in order to get a quick fix to the unemployment problem, they may just end up where they did not want to go. Some parents are stuck with adult children in their late 20s or even 30s who are still struggling to find their way, still searching for jobs that are not forthcoming. Some adult children never find their way; they get stuck for the rest of their lives yet they have a good education.
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