I’m talking about money today on the blog. Is that tacky? Oh well.
It’s senior year and many of my school friends are graduating either this December or next May, with me. There’s a different energy this year. A feeling of wrapping up, moving on, anxiousness, impatience. And there’s a lot of talk about job offers. Lots of people are making decisions on offers that have been made by companies they have interned with. Especially for those graduating in December, now is the time to make those choices. It’s an exciting time. This is what everyone has worked so hard to achieve. This is the payoff. Walking off campus with a diploma and a job that will pay off all those student loans and stock the fridge with something nicer than ramen noodles.
At least that’s true for most engineering graduates. As anyone who has not been living under a rock knows, the economy is still not stellar. Graduates with less “in-demand” degrees often still face months of job searching, the necessity of taking a job that is below their skill level and even the prospect of moving back home with mom and dad. Engineering graduates, for the most part, don’t face these challenges. And I’m not sure all of them realize how lucky they are.
I graduated with my art degree in 2003. In the middle of a good economy with good job prospects for most graduates. I still moved home with my parents for six months before I got my first job. And when I found that job, I was so excited to get an offer with five digits in it that I accepted it on the spot without doing any research on average salaries in my field nor living expenses. My punishment for that oversight? The realization that I couldn’t actually afford to live on that salary in that small town without getting a roommate. A roommate? Seriously? [Side note: That roommate ended up becoming one of my closest friends, so I guess lemonade was made out of lemons. Love you, Shaunna!] In fact, it took me four years of working at that company to finally reach the salary level that I should have demanded before accepting the offer. Lessons learned? Oh yes. Lessons learned.
So when I hear fellow students say things like, “Well, as long as I get at least [insert figure here that is $10K more than the salary I was earning after ten years in my last career], I’ll be happy,” I really wonder if they realize how incredibly fortunate they are to be able to say that.
Sure, I have a figure in my head that I hope to earn at my first job, and that figure is backed up by research on how much entry level engineers typically make, so I do understand their expectations. They’re not unreasonable. But really – that’s a lot of money for an entry-level job. That’s exciting. That’s awesome. If I get a job making the salary I’m hoping for, I’ll be dancing around my house all day. I just want them to understand how amazing it is that their lives are at this point at age 21. But I’m not sure they do. I guess you only get that perspective if you’ve had a different life experience that would give you, well, a different perspective.
I guess I just hope that all my fellow engineering graduates will take a moment to stop and smell the roses once or twice during job offer season. Step back and think about how truly fortunate they are to have chosen and persevered in and ultimately succeeded in getting a degree that is so highly valued in our society. As engineering students we endure a lot, and getting a job can seem like just another task to check off the to-do list. But it’s not. It’s an amazing opportunity. I hope I see a few high-fives and little dances in the halls of the engineering building. Get excited, folks!