Regardless of the outcome of the presidential election, most persons with only a high school diploma need to acknowledge that high-paying jobs are not coming back for them. Forget all those campaign promises. You are in the driver’s seat. It’s your life.
Some might respond, “I know a college graduate who is working a minimum-wage job.” I absolutely agree, and I ask, “What was the person’s major in college?” and “Where does he/she live?” Art and music majors have a difficult time with post-college employment. It’s the reality of selecting a major for which there is no or little demand. If you love art and/or music, make that your minor area of study.
Reading and math skills, along with technology skills, are absolutely essential in today’s job market. And there are the soft skills as well, but those skills are not the subject of my column today.
You might rejoin, “I know how to read, and I have a calculator. Plus, I have a Facebook account.”
You read, but at what level? Can you assume because you graduated from high school that you read at grade level 12? Absolutely not. Are you technology competent because you have a Facebook account? No.
Let’s get real. Go to your local community college and take that college’s placement tests. Learn what your skills are as of today and learn what you need to do to upgrade them.
The career center at that college will have tools to help you match your interests and abilities with the careers that are available. Since 1948 the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been publishing The Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), and it’s available online (www.bls.gov/ooh/). This site will let you explore careers: job prospects, median pay, entry level of education, projected growth rate, and on-the-job training. This is the time to decide how your abilities and interests match job availability.
“But I can’t leave my home and extended family to work in another state. I’ve always lived here.” And deep down, or perhaps on the surface, you realize that you wouldn’t be comfortable in a new area: adjustment to weather patterns, race/ethnicity profiles that differ from you, traffic patterns that intimidate.
Sometimes we “bite the bullet” and head out to the new territories. Americans have always done this. It’s part of our DNA as a nation.
“It would take too long to earn a certificate/degree” and “I don’t have the money” are common reasons for staying in a less-than-desirable situation. And my response is to ask you what you will be doing during that time that is helpful, that will put you in a better position. And you can hold a job while you attend college. I always have except for my first two years when my aunt said she wanted me to experience college in a way she had not been able to because of needing to work.
In regard to the money, that’s why we pay taxes — at least many of us do. Now is the time to complete the FAFSA at https.//fafsa.ed.gov/. Check deadlines for your state, your college.
You say, “But I don’t have a computer.” That’s what public libraries are for. And if you don’t know how to turn one on, the library staff will help you.
All of this might seem complicated and maybe you’re feeling depressed, inadequate. We can all find reasons for not doing what logic is telling us we need to be doing.
I’ve often thought of what my family’s life would have been had my father not found work elsewhere when he was laid off from U.S. Steel Corporation. All of his children have earned graduate degrees and have had responsible jobs.
And believe me, every single time I’ve gone to a new college/university from junior college to Harvard University, I’ve been apprehensive. You can do this. You can get over these hurdles. Identify a support network, and don’t let anything stop you. May the wind be at your back.
Vivian Blevins is a consultant for the Training Solutions Group Inc. who teaches courses in writing and literature for major telecom company employees. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or [email protected]