The Class of 2009

I have been a bit remiss in blogging this week due to the fact that I have been busy attending my daughter’s graduation from Northwestern University and the week long events and activities that coincided with this momentous occasion. I will take a moment to be a bragging mom.

My daughter Erin has always been a high achiever and on Friday, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from Northwestern University. Quite an achievement from such a prestigious, academically rigorous university. The event itself was memorable, due to a gutsy call to have it outside even though the weather forecast was ominous and there had been sudden downpours throughout the day. But Chicagoans are gutsy people and they made the call to have the event outdoors.

The ceremony was scheduled to run from 6PM to 8PM. It was abbreviated and condensed in the hopes of getting through everything before a pending storm that was headed our way. Wynton Marsalis was the keynote, who not only spoke but played his horn. What a passionate send off – better than any words could ever accomplish.

But aside from the ominous weather, what I will remember the most were the words of one speaker who noted that this was the most talented class based on scores and grants and awards in the university’s history. But he also noted that it was also the class with the least placements (jobs) since 1932.

I suppose that most would look at that as bad news. But I started thinking about that and how that entire generation has basically been brought up to think that “everyone is a winner”. A generation brought up in an era where everything was pretty easy and always rising – getting a job, getting a better job, real estate prices rising, the stock market going up etc. And all of a sudden – a reality check.

For most of us, graduating college in and of itself was a reality check – an introduction to the real world. But for these graduates – it’s a reality check on a grand scale. Maybe only 1 out of 5 have a job – if that. No doubt some will go to grad school and hope for better times. Some will go home and live with their parents. And some will be resourceful and tough it out finding some kind of employment until a “real” job comes along. They will be forced to “think outside the box”. They will need to try harder and be more proactive.

But on the other hand, this generation will be more resilient and become stronger. They won’t take things for granted. They’ll recognize opportunities and make the most of them.  They’ll network more and at a time when social media is making it more possible. They’ll create new opportunities because the old ones are gone. And in the process they’ll truly change the paradigm of how business is done. Almost like the generation that graduated in 1932 – during the Great Depression.  That generation turned out to be one of our greatest generations.

It will be quite interesting to see how a group of super achievers will not only mold their destiny but change all of ours in the process.

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