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“The notion that we can go to college for four years and then spend that knowledge for the next 30 is over,” Thomas Friedman announced in yesterday’s New York Times. “If you want to be a lifelong employee anywhere today, you have to be a lifelong learner.” He’s right on both counts. The returns students can expect from their bachelor’s degrees have been shrinking, and every worker out there needs to constantly pick up new skills in order to compete in the workforce long-term.
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Then Friedman writes, “And that means: More is now on you. And that means self-motivation to learn and keep learning becomes the most important life skill.”
Then Friedman writes, “And that means: More is now on you. And that means self-motivation to learn and keep learning becomes the most important life skill.” (His patronizing italics.) The gist of the column, whose insurance-brochure headline is “Owning Your Own Future,” is that too few young professionals are ready to do that.
It might be easy to imagine that every college student in the U.S. is a beneficiary of the kind of privilege that puts them vastly out of touch with everyone else in the country who’s trying to earn a living on a high school diploma or less. But go stand in the middle of a college quad or on the floor of a struggling manufacturing plant and declare that “having an agile learning mind-set will be the new skill set of the 21st century” (Friedman’s quoting an “education-to-work expert” here), and see what kind of response you get. I’ll bet they’d be identically unkind.
...The class of 2017 is graduating into a much healthier job market than their peers did in the depths of the financial crisis a decade ago. But as Fast Company‘s Lydia Dishman points out, “2007’s economy is a pretty low bar.” Despite their gobs of student loan debt and the fact that they’ll be competing for work with a cohort of which the majority is underemployed, gen-Z job seekers remain amazingly optimistic about their career prospects.
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