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Open Letter to College Seniors and Recent Grads: Stop Whining

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Okay, so the economy tanked. All the years of livin' easy have come to an abrupt halt. No more flipping property -- now recent college grads may be faced with flipping burgers. It's true that in the "olden days" of the late 1970s when I graduated from college, most of us walked out of the quad with a golden ticket. So what if you majored in obscure Gothic architecture. Could you put two sentences together? Could you stand up in front of a room full of people and make a case for something? You were hired! Of course, the salaries were nothing to write home about, even in 1970s dollars, but you knew you were headed UP.

So now our kids (and maybe grandkids) are whining about their bleak prospects. What about those jobs they'd been envisioning with the telecommuting and the free lunches and the day off every month to pursue their passions? What about the six figure starting salaries and the value of their innate ability to navigate the internet while texting and reprogramming a blackberry? What's going to happen to their dreams in this economy??

Well I'm here to say: Quit your whining. There are the same possibilities for you that existed for me. But they involve work, not dreams. Forget that crap on some poster that reads, "If you can dream it, you can be it." My question to you is: Can you write? Not text messages, not facebook wall postings, not emoticons. Can you actually write a persuasive paragraph? Can you make words sing and wail and grab me by the throat? None of the new technology has changed the fact that being a skilled writer will help you land a job. It will help you write a compelling cover letter, a meaningful resume, a heartfelt thank you letter. It will allow you to freelance while you search for the job that will get you started on the way to somewhere.

And while I'm at it: Can you talk? Not slang, not profanities, not song lyrics. Can you speak English grammatically? Can you explain in one minute or less why an employer should hire you and not the other twenty young people waiting in the lobby? Can you convince her that your skills, education and potential will make you a stellar addition to the team? And, if necessary, can you use your words to convey your complete willingness to do whatever work is required, even filing, making coffee and answering phones?

If office jobs elude you, do volunteer work. Make the world a better place while you search for your own place in the world. There's no shame in waiting tables or stocking shelves either. We all began somewhere. Learn something new every day and know that each new skill or lesson will lead you to where you want to be.

The salad days of starting a career with the word "manager" in your title are probably over. You may need to begin as an "administrative assistant." Oh the horror! But you know what? It's only up from there. You may need to commit to staying at one organization for several years, mastering tasks and being promoted. You may need to scale back your expectations. You may even need to learn a second language! But the good news is that the economy, no matter how bad it gets, is not going to hold you back. Even if some miracle happens and the economy suddenly recovers and then some, it won't be what gives you the opportunity to succeed. Only you can do that...and no whining allowed.

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