Delayed employment can have positive results for new grads
It was last semester, while throwing my body and soul into preparing for a GRE exam, that my best friend announced that she was interested in neither continuing her studies nor getting a job after graduation. Instead, she said she wants to spend some time “contemplating” her future, meaning she’s just going to lay around on her parents’ sofa playing on her phone and watching South Korean soap operas.
It is not uncommon nowadays for Chinese college graduates to have no interest in pursuing a career or higher education. More and more are opting to travel, do some volunteer work, try their hand at entrepreneurship or just leech off of their parents.
According to a recent survey of graduates in 2017 by Zhaopin.com, 9.8 percent of 93,420 respondents are opting to manjiuye (delayed employment), which is having a shortterm ripple effect in the local job market and could have long-term consequences on China’s availability of professional talent.
Due to China’s ever-rising quality of life and growing middle class, new university grads no longer feel confined to pursuing the traditional path of rushing for a job or getting married. Broadening their personal horizons is now a priority for many, though old-fashioned parents and leaders are calling this “irresponsible” and “an unrealistic dream.”
In my view as a student, what matters most is not the decision these grads make, but the mental state behind their choice. As long as they keep in mind the importance of staying truly independent and not having to depend on anyone else – their parents or society – to achieve their goals, then I applaud their freedom of choice.
Among those students who do choose to pursue the traditional path of jumping right into a job, even if they snag a high salary or convince their parents to buy them an apartment, none of it matters if you are just blindly conforming to society’s expectations. The last thing China needs is more “sheeple.”
My aunt recently quit her job at a securities company to open a small cafe, her lifelong dream. She was once envied by her peers when, right after graduating university, she was hired by the company. What they didn’t know, however, is that she only got the job because of guanxi (connections), so she never felt really good about it. After all these decades, she finally worked up the courage to do what she really wants.
The thing is, entrepreneurialism is truly the best way to learn essential skills that just can’t be taught in school or at the bottom of the corporate ladder. Jumping into the deep end and trying your luck will teach you invaluable lessons about life, people and the world that you’ll otherwise never experience. You might even make a success out of it.
Not just running your own business, but simply traveling can open your eyes and mind to aspects of the world that can never be seen from inside an office cubicle. Cai Lulu, author of Gap Year, spent 13 months traveling to 12 different countries after quitting her first job as a waitress. “I learned to embrace my imperfect self and lead a happy life by making friends with all the people I met and experiencing narrow escapes on the road. Our youth will never return once it is gone,” Cai wrote in her book.
It is necessary, however, to establish personal limits and deadlines, so as to prevent yourself from getting lost or drifting aimlessly for too long. Even those who rely on the financial safety-nets of their parents need to recognize that, at some point, they’ll need to settle down.
My friend who I mentioned above finally decided to combine education and travel and will apply for a master’s program abroad. Her family can afford it, and she’s maybe just going back to school so that she can continue to loaf around without any real responsibilities. But sooner or later she will come to a crossroads in her life and be forced to decide what she really wants to do and be.