The New York Times has come out with yet another sweeping catchphrase to characterize our generation of college-aged students and recent graduates. This time, we are supposedly proud members of “Generation Limbo,” according to a recent article.
The constituents of Generation Limbo are said to be stuck in the transition from students to working professionals. The economic downturn coupled with bleak signs of an impending recovery have caused record unemployment rates for recent college graduates. Often, graduates resort to low-skilled, part-time jobs for which they are far overqualified just to pay the bills. Some even return to their parents’ homes. These realities exist seemingly independent of a student’s alma mater.
Generation Limbo, however, is an invalid term for current undergraduate students. We mustn’t allow the unhealthy economy limit our potential for success. By taking a proactive approach during college to life after it, students will be able to evade this “limbo” term from defining their generation.
The Times’s article is littered with anecdotes of Ivy League graduates forced to wait tables for below-minimum wage, rudely shoved into a reality a far cry from the cozy American dream of attending an elite college and being set for life. Some graduates attempt a new career path altogether while others return for graduate school to wait out the lingering effects of this recession.
Within top universities, the mentality generally centers around a “welcome, you’ve made it to the old boys’ club” message where admittance guarantees a student’s future success — regardless of his or her personal efforts in college. From the very first freshman orientation featuring a professor crowing about the newest exclusive group of hand-picked students to the closing speech of a senior’s graduation ceremony, the message is one of elite privilege and coddling. Just because you get a piece of paper with the USC emblem on it, doesn’t guarantee success from here on out.
Yes, USC is one of the top universities in the country, with a rapidly climbing national reputation. But it is easy to get passive and complacent, which is exactly what the Times is accusing this generation of doing. By taking advantage of all the opportunities the university affords to the student body, students will be on the path toward a positive career.
As expected, this breeds a formula for passivity and complacency buffered by the knowledge that the university will rally behind the student now that he or she is one of its own. Instead of under-utilizing their resources, students over-rely on the brand name of the university to get a job upon graduation.
Now that it has skyrocketed in college rankings in the past few years, USC really has become one of the top-tier universities in which roughly nine applicants vie for every one seat in the incoming freshman class. USC students are keenly vulnerable to this elitist mentality as well, and should take care to avoid it at the risk for a very dangerous sense of complacency.
After all, USC provides many valuable resources, from basic education and training to advising services and networking events, which employees look for when hiring for highly coveted positions.
But USC does not spoon-feed its students. USC will not give students jobs and hand out readily-available positions at Apple, Deloitte or Disney like candy. As students, we must forge our own paths instead of relying on a simple degree for an assured future career. We are not forced into “limbo,” as the new moniker implies. It is by our actions as students of USC, undergraduate or graduate, that we can determine our successes.
The currently feeble state of the United States economy may pose a thorny problem for our goals, but students can mitigate the effects through hard work and making the most of USC’s resources. In fact, it should provide even more incentive for students to subscribe to the career center or internship newsletter, to attend more professional events organized by each school, to spruce up their résumés and leave a few at the career fair.
Rebecca Gao is a sophomore majoring in global health and biological sciences.