Ready or not! Here they come! Are college grads ready for LIFE?

Cheryl Kees Clendenon #let's blog off, Business 6 Comments

As part of the # let’s blog off round up today, I am writing about the topic of “Are college graduates ready for real life” with the slant of  an employer of  20 somethings and have had plenty try to make it through “Cheryl boot camp”. I also am of the Gen X age  and many of my friends now have kids that are recent grads. It is not easy to work in the design/construction industry and it is not easy to work for me ( gasp!)! I have expectations.

So here is my point of view.  And my soapbox.

In my opinion, It all comes down to critical thinking skills. Or, the lack thereof. Critical thinking has been described as “a way of taking up the problems of life”. I am shocked at how many people graduate from college every day and are unable to think their way through solving the most basic of problems. This is the biggest challenge for my own employees and in talking to many of my friend’s kids…same issue. Here is what i hear: ” I am not sure  HOW to do this”, “Who do I ask about this?” “Where do I start on this?”


I am not much of an enabler either. Ask me questions but try it on your own first. Part of our training is in how to know what the right questions are…so we can get the right answers.

Of course on any job, training is key. Other than procedures and basics, I  train as “we go along” so to speak because my industry is tough to explain. Why? Because for god’s sake the rules change every day. As soon as I make a “rule”, there becomes a reason to break it. So you have to “think” and try to figure out the “Whats, Wheres and Hows” .This requires a person to be able to make critical judgments. based on the facts at hand. You have to be able to “figure it out”. Be persistent in your quest. And is this not true about life in general? First to figure out what IT really is then how to FIGURE IT OUT. ( and then be able to communicate the info back to boss lady!!)

No, college grads are not ready for real life in many ways….mostly because they do not simply have the “years of living on the planet” experience they must acquire to really be prepared….but I also believe colleges and universities  fail students in teaching them anything about real life, problem solving skills and how to really think through solutions. Seems ridiculous as to me, that is one of the most important reasons to attend college. I fear much of the problem is how much enabling parent’s do with their children before they even get to college.As a Gen X adult myself, I think many of us want to “help” our children as much as possible and in the end fail them by not teaching them how to think for themselves. And by saying this, I mean providing them with the skills to ponder solutions and come to their own conclusions. I know I struggle with it myself with my teenagers. They groan when I get on a rant like this and then something breaks in the house.

Such as the case of the broken toilet flapper. “Toilet broke, Mom!” “So fix it child” “What??? I don’t know how!” “Well, it is time to learn, love! Will you pee outside when your toilet flapper breaks at your house?” Thus the lesson in how to use a simple paperclip to attach the chain to the flapper ensues. Much groaning and gnashing of teeth going along with it.

Generally  it seems these critical thinking skills are an “on the job” learned experience and I understand this and do a bigger part than many employers in trying to teach these skills. And at some point people must be held people accountable. Something that is often a new and different concept. So, do we enable our kids too much? Even in college? Are WE as parents out of order?

A graduate from Cheryl’s boot camp is well prepared for whatever they may tackle next, I assure you! At the time, the 20 something’s may grouse and complain. They may moan. They may groan. They most likely cuss behind by back and sometimes to my face. (We have an open door policy:) But, the ones that stick it out, learn much about running a business, how to handle various personalities in clients  ( and the crazy lady boss too!), how to COMMUNICATE and why it is the essential ingredient to success in our industry and simply how to  critically think through a situation to get to a resolution.


I have to say that I have been extraordinarily fortunate to find some really good “brains” that can learn to critically think and problem solve. I have some really good people. Not that mistakes are not made. Every day. But this concerns me less  than a simple task where someone was not “thinking”. Seriously. Because mistakes will happen and these can be discussed and fixed (and hopefully not repeated!) but a person who cannot “learn”  or be trained to solve problems and make decisions is not ready for my business…or real life.

Because life is one long series of making decisions. Daily. Hourly. And these decisions shape your life and impact the lives of others.

Back tomorrow with our regular scheduled program and non soap box posts! 🙂

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Comments 6

  1. Pingback: Does college or anything really prepare you for the real world? | The Homeowner's Resource Center

  2. I enjoyed this post. I’ve found one of my most challenging responsiblities as a manager is to not just learn project management but to teach it. How to prioritize tasks, how to anticipate problems, how to work w/ different personalities, how to present options/choices to TPTB (the powers that be). The fine art of getting sh*t done, as I call it.

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    Author

    Thanks Kim! I so agree. This is my daily battle and is not easy because we are so busy in so many directions. The “managing expectations” is also key skill to learn…esp in design and construction!

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