Monday, October 19, 2015

A Parent's Adult Child is a Dabbler. Now What?

It's a common problem, especially with today's young adult males: He's smart but unmotivated. That was the complaint of a caller to my NPR-San Francisco radio program. I post the edited transcript of our exchange as my article today.


DBS said...

Have you ever heard the saying, "Life is what happens while you are busy making plans"? This lady's son already has a career. It's dabbling.
Seriously though, this economy that we are trapped in is undergoing some bizarre and unpredictable changes. More and more this new global economy is starting to resemble the Titanic as it was undergoing it's own death throes. Let me tell you about my own experience.
I graduated from college in 1974 with a (don't start laughing)+ political science degree. If I had graduated from college 10 years earlier, I probably would have found some sort of job that only required a college degree. But by 1974 it was a changed world. This illustrates a basic flaw that occurs when you try to plan for the future. Such plans are always based on what took place in the past.
Well, in recognizing what a bumbling mistake I had made, I realized that I needed to learn how to actually do something. While living on $60 a week unemployment benefits, I spent a year at the local Jr. College taking classes in offset printing. Becoming reasonably proficient at operating an offset press I set out to find a job. The only job I could get was at a decrepit old print shop that looked like it was something from out a Charles Dickins novel. Even then, the only way I got the job was because the old couple working there remembered me when I was a little kid and we were neighbors. I worked there for 2 1/2 years and during that time I could tell it was a dying industry. When you are still using 100 year old equipment it's pretty obvious that you are witnessing the demise of the offset printing industry.
So what did I do in response to my latest predicament? I went back to college again of course. This time I acquired a BS degree in Computer Science. This time I was certain I had every angle figured. At least this time I didn't have people laughing in my face when I told them what my major was. I did work at temporary jobs for about a year. But then, out of pure malicious spitefulness, the Soviet Union collapsed and the cold war ended. They couldn't have held out for just a few more years, until I could get myself established in my new career. Of course when this happened the job market was flooded with all kinds of highly experienced engineers. And to top it all off, software companies discovered they didn't need to hire expensive American workers. All they had to do was, with just a push of a button, ship their work half way around the world to somebody who will do it for a fraction of the price. And thus was hammered into place the final nail for my latest career's coffin.
I wrote all of this to illustrate the point that Dabbler's dilemma may be a lot more complicated then what it appears to be.

Marty Nemko said...

DBS, yes, even today, dabbling rather than planning can pay off. But especially in today's U.S., when it is so expensive to hire an American, especially for a "permanent" full time job, you dramatically boost your odds if you've stayed a course long enough to be expert at it. To make a not fully-apt analogy, of course, some cigarette smokers live long lives but that doesn't argue for taking up smoking. That greatly increases your risk of a shorter life.