As president of Growing Leaders, I am consistently digging up research or hosting focus groups with both adults (parents, faculty, coaches, employers) and with students. Recently, I assembled the following list of six big concerns that university students expressed to me, about their life and career. They furnish us with a peek into their hearts and minds—and inform us as we lead them.
1. They list the need to grow up faster among the biggest disadvantages of their generation.
Most admit to feeling unready for the world that awaits them following graduation; they are even fearful.
Many finish college and return home to live with their parents for the next three to four years. They are waiting to grow up and find the perfect job and mate. They want to pursue a calling not just a career.
2. They are not happy with the direction of the country.
Sixty two percent of Generation Y believes our country is heading the wrong direction. They are the most unemployed demographic; corruption remains in Washington DC and on Wall Street and America is still at war. They’re more conservative politically than their parents on some issues but have more progressive ideas on other issues. They definitely don’t like the divisive, angry politics going on today.
3. In some ways they are at odds with their own beliefs and values.
They’re struggling with their spirituality; faith is important to them, but organized religion is a turn-off. When asked who they would like to have dinner with (living or dead), Jesus Christ remains the number one sought-after dinner guest, with almost twice as many votes as others in prior studies.
4. They don’t see the world in black or white; right or wrong.
Most think littering is absolutely wrong, however only half of those same students say it’s absolutely wrong to exaggerate on a resume or not declare all of one’s income on an IRS form. Most possess situational ethics. They want to possess values, but life has been very convenient for them, with little need to sacrifice for what is right.
5. Their career plan involves “one big break” instead of steadily plodding up the ladder.
Most talk about the hope of one significant breakthrough or opportunity where they will be “noticed” or will invent something and suddenly become rich or famous or free to do what they want to do. The idea of “paying your dues” is unappealing to them. Most don’t envision working hard at something they’re not passionate about.
6. They want their life to count.
Nine out of ten of them think about the future several times a week. They desire a “life of purpose” and want to engage in work that has a higher meaning than to merely draw a paycheck. They’re trying to make sense of it all, but life gives them an anxious eagerness about the future.
Would you add any to this list? What fears and concerns do you see in students today? How can we lead them well through these challenges?