At high schools and colleges across the nation, this is the graduation season, a time for celebration and unbridled optimism.
But this year, perhaps more than others in recent memory, the dark shadow of harsh reality hovers over the cap-and-gown crowd.
As they walk across the stage with diploma in hand, many of this year’s graduates know that piece of fancy paper and the hearty handshake accompanying its presentation aren’t enough to guarantee success.
Graduates looking for work face a job market weakened by years of hard economic conditions. Many of those leaving college to start careers do so with staggering student loan debt. High school graduates looking to further their education face spiraling costs for doing so as tuition and fees continue to rise while sources of financial aid dwindle.
If those standing behind the lecterns to present commencement addresses are honest, they will tell their audiences it’s a tough world out there, and only those who are focused and prepared are going to reach their goals.
That’s the reality of the message this year’s graduates need to hear.
More than ever it’s important that this year’s graduating class make intelligent choices when it comes to charting career paths. The economic downturn of recent years has changed the workplace landscape; jobs that just a few years ago were expected to be around forever have proven to be expendable and eliminated. New jobs being created require new skill sets, and in some cases revamped attitudes about work.
That’s the message that has to resonate with members of the class of 2012. Be smart in mapping a route to your future.
That said, however, it is still an exciting time of high expectations, and the students involved, as well as their parents, deserve a chance to enjoy the fruits of their labors for a bit before taking on the challenges of whatever is next in their lives.
There are few moments in the lives of most of us as exhilarating as when we joined with classmates in tossing mortar boards into the sky and embracing a brave new post-graduation world. We congratulate all the classes of 2012, and wish their members godspeed as they embark on the next step of life’s journey.