Hello. You haven’t seen a blog post from me for a few months. I thought I would take a few minutes to explain.
Frankly, I haven’t had much to say – at least not much that I wanted to share with anyone outside my small group of family and friends. Of course, I have been VERY busy communicating about the work of college and career pathways, but mostly so through our Pathways Leadership Essentials online course, through my podcast, and also working directly with clients and virtual speaking engagements.
But with regards to this blog post, Brett Pawlowski has been carrying the load for quite a while. Thank you, Brett!
But now, I am intentionally re-entering the more public dialogue that blogging provides.
Why have I been “off the air” for the last few months? I wasn’t sure why the well of ideas to write about had run dry. But a few weeks ago, I became aware of the toll that all the turmoil of 2020 and 2021 has taken.
Of course, these last two years have been emotionally difficult for everyone in our country. And during 2020 and 2021, three major issues have been perplexing, deeply troubling and at times when I let them be, all consuming.
First, there is extreme politicization and polarization about how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. This became more than an exploration about how to handle a serious worldwide health crisis but was completely enmeshed with politics and the polarization of world views. Then, in the midst of the pandemic, there was the George Floyd murder, with the subsequent protests (and yes, some riots) that pushed us into a newly intensified discussion of race, racism, and whether racism is just a personal evil or there are also systemic forms of racism. And thirdly, there was the ugliness over the validity over the presidential election that culminated with the January 6 insurrection at the capitol.
I’m not going to litigate what I believe about these events and issues. But for me, the name calling, the polarized world views about what counts as fact, the unwillingness to deal with ideas that challenge one’s established views (aka confirmation bias), and the blanket labeling of “the other side” as morally and intellectually bankrupt, these are the trends which have taken the wind out of my sails.
Now, circle back to my writer’s block. As deeply as I care about these issues, outside of having a series of personal conversations (some very enriching but most frustrating), I haven’t had anything to add to the public dialogue.
And that’s why I believe I erred; I allowed my anger and frustration over these big issues to take me off course in my work and to shut down my writing.
Now, I have decided to renew my focus on what I can most directly influence. For me, what I can influence is telling the great news stories of how college and career pathways can give our youth and young adults a positive mindset and skillset to navigation a panoply of career options!
First, in the most immediate terms, I hope that, as we come together around college and career pathways, this will help millions of young adult Americans achieve greater economic prosperity and economic upward mobility.
And indirectly, I hope that college and career pathways can influence some of the other big issues I care about.
Through its research on personal well-being, the Gallup Organization identifies career satisfaction as a factor that MOST STRONGLY impacts personal well-being. Connecting the dots, we know that when our sense of well-being suffers, we are more prone to externalize our anger and frustrations.
I am cautious about overplaying this, but I believe that a lack of career satisfaction among millions of Americans also contributes to the breakdown in constructive conversations about politics, race, and public and personal health. I’m not saying career discontent CAUSES these conflicts about specific issues, but that it contributes to the anger that breaks down real dialogue.
My hope is that through better Career Fit, more Americans will have a stronger sense of well-being, and be more ready to engage in respectful dialogue. Of course, we will still have personal perspectives and strong differences about the role of government, addressing racial strife and bigotry, and building a more equitable society. But perhaps, with a greater sense of well-being and efficacy, we will all be better able to actually engage in dialogue. Dialogue is what Joseph Grenny and his colleagues call, “creating a pool of shared meaning.”1 Through dialogue, we learn to actually listen to one another, better understand why we have the views we do, and perhaps find some areas of common ground.
Of course, these are long-term outcomes, but it gives me hope that promoting the Power and Promise of Pathways and Career Connected Learning can positively impact both the individual and also the greater good.
I hope my remembering to focus on what I can directly influence also gives you some renewed hope and motivation, especially as we are entering into the new school year and taking a fresh grip on the opportunities to build and enhance our Career Connected Learning strategies.
Thank you for what you do for America’s youth and young adults! See “Crucial Conversations” by Joseph Grenny et al.
Hans Meeder is President of the National Center for College and Career Transitions (NC3T) (www.nc3t.com). NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance, and tools. These strategies help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.