When you come to a fork in the road - take it!
If you are not familiar with the legendary quotes of Yogi Berra, you must be seriously wondering what this headline means. A uniquely successful baseball catcher with the New York Yankees for almost two decades, elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972, Yogi Berra also became known as the most quoted sports figure in history.
Why? Was he a great speaker? No. In fact, he was just the opposite: he produced short, totally illogical phrases of a self-contradictory nature. They would normally leave listeners shaking their heads in bewilderment, yet somehow get the point across. Next time somebody asks you why you don’t go anymore to a certain club/restaurant, use one of those witty comments of Yogi Berra: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
As for the “fork in the road” quote, it evolved into an inspirational statement, and has been used by many speakers as a commencement address to university graduates. Yogi Berra gave his own explanation, in 2007, when he spoke at the graduation ceremony of Saint Louis University in the US.
"Dear graduates, when you come to a fork in the road, take it," Berra said. "In life, the only poor decisions are the ones you don't follow through on. When you leave here today you will have more choices than you ever thought possible."
In the pre-crisis optimism of 2007 it sounded encouraging. Today unfortunately we live in a totally different economic environment. University graduates of 2012 - having got over the happiness of June graduation ceremonies - are looking around with considerable pessimism. They are entering a depressed and at the same time highly competitive job market.
For many professions, in both public and private sector, the market is already saturated. Many of those choices and opportunities which existed in the pre-crisis economy for young university graduates are not available any more. The situation with youth unemployment in Europe is really dramatic. In Greece, the rate of unemployed young people is now above 50%, which means that there are more young people who DON'T work than those who DO.
Overall, in the EU countries the unemployment rate for the 25-year-olds and younger rose in May from 20.5% a year ago to 22.6%. In Cyprus, every fourth person aged 15-24 is currently unemployed, and as Fiona Mullen, a well-known economist, pointed out in a recent article, “the greatest sorrow is that nearly 14% of the unemployed are seeking a first job”. Of course, here in Cyprus we have an extra reason for the rise of youth unemployment, which Fiona Mullen described as “waiting for Daddy’s mesa”.
Over the years, Cyprus has created a whole generation of young people whose biggest aspiration is to work in the public sector with its high salaries, free perks and short hours. In these circumstances, the loss of productivity and competitiveness of our economy should hardly come as a surprise. Yet, saying that all our young graduates lack enthusiasm and motivation would be very wrong. I have seen many students over my years of teaching here and I know for sure that it is not true. What makes their lives a lot more difficult now in the current economic situation is their lack of experience.
Companies now, more than ever before, want people with experience and, conveniently for them, the supply of such candidates in the job market has been growing. Meanwhile, recent university graduates stand little chance. What can one do these days to get a proper career start? One possible solution is to seek an internship. The idea of a three to six months unpaid work, provided that the company-host involves the student in an important and meaningful project, is nothing unusual in the US and Germany, but here in Cyprus it is a rather rare phenomenon.
People think: why should I work for free? Think about it the other way. You get a chance to acquire valuable experience which will put you ahead of other job candidates. You may seek such an internship on your own by contacting different companies which you believe might be interested.
You may also consider enrolling in a postgraduate business programme, such as Master of Science in Management at CIIM, which offers an optional internship. The latter solution will bring you even stronger benefits by equipping you with relevant business knowledge, possibly changing your entire vision, and therefore enabling you to discover many new opportunities for your future career.
As Yogi Berra said, “tragedy lies in paralysis, not bad choices or regrets”.
Dr Olga Kandinskaia is Assistant Professor of Finance at the CIIM Business School and Director of the MSc in Management Programme, firstname.lastname@example.org
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