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Jeunes diplômés en quête de sens : comment résister à la pression des parents ? 

These are the tough questions. But they're ubiquitous. "So how far have you got with your job search?", "How many CVs have you sent out this month?", "Did you get any replies to your interviews?" ... are just a few examples of the questions you face, and which annoy or even depress you. Because you want to find a job that makes sense, and not necessarily follow the path laid out by your diploma... of which your parents are particularly proud!

I'm Laurent, professor at École Centrale Supélec (formerly Centrale Paris) and head of Primaveras, a school specializing in meaning at work. I hear these pressures from all sides, and even from more experienced people. So here are a few keys to "resisting" when you're young and starting out in your professional life with a desire to think outside the box!

Thanks parents?

In their defense, parents who are concerned about their children's professional integration are fulfilling their role. At the end of many years of study, they are logically interested in the outcome of this brilliant career path, in the hope that it will turn into a "good job" in a "good company". What's more, once the family has tightened its belt to pay for the sometimes prohibitively expensive tuition fees, it's only natural that they should jealously guard the return on their studies! Normal, yes. But you're aiming for something else. You're not looking to jump into the arms of the first classic job offer, because you're dreaming of something else, you're dreaming of "changing the world"!

In fact, there are worse things than that, because some young graduates struggle to get a job, even in their "natural" profession. Because what we don't say is that there's a bottleneck when it comes to Master's-level degrees. I describe this little-known phenomenon in my latest book "Le pouvoir, le bonheur, le climat" (Editions du Détour): not all young graduates find work straight out of school, ... and that's not by a long shot, ... there's even talk of downgrading for those forced to accept under-qualified positions. In short, the conditions are ripe for stressing out parents who, while full of good intentions, are anxious at the thought of their son or daughter struggling and ending up in some form of precarious employment.

What can you do in these conditions?

Deep down inside, you're well aware that the passage of time also ends up stressing you out, and that it's not easy to reassure others when you're not reassured yourself. So here are two simple tips for dealing with these pressures before they turn against you.

The first thing to do is to reassure by taking a step back. Let's talk numbers. Even if the figures vary from one school or university to another, it's worth remembering that, in France in 2023, 100% of graduates will not sign a permanent contract the day after their graduation ceremony! (which, by the way, isn't usually held right after the end of classes!!). If you want to share verifiable information: only half of all university graduates have a permanent contract one year after graduation. Yes, there are many reasons for this, but one of them is a perfectly natural cycle of job hunting, time to compare, and simply understanding what you want and what employers want.

With such a simple statistic, you'll be able to relativize with your family and friends the urgency of finding a job, immediately, and even more so a permanent contract. By showing that part of the glass that's half empty, that people don't usually want to see, you'll be reassuring yourself and therefore your parents. Of course, you have classmates who find a job very quickly (so the glass is half full), but you mustn't take these examples as systematically verified generalities.

And what about your career plan?

Let's get back to your project: working in the ecological and social transition. This prospect may honestly worry your parents, as it involves new activities and new types of jobs, with which previous generations are less familiar. So it's time for a bit of pedagogy, so that your project isn't perceived as "utopian". Indeed, it's easy to imagine the consternation of some people who watched these graduates speak at their graduation ceremony at AgroParisTech! Looking for work in sectors radically opposed to traditional (and comfortable) paths can be legitimately frightening.

To counter this, I explain to my students that the diploma does not make the professional project. In other words, it's not enough to declare that you've graduated from such-and-such a school for an employer to bow down and hire you straight away. Recruiters need to hear a real project. A solid, well-thought-out career plan, consistent with your personality and values. Which means that the same diploma can lead to very different careers! ... as varied as new professions! It's obvious, but it's worth remembering, because in our country we're very much influenced by the stereotypes attached to those who have "graduated from such and such a school"!


So, whether you're feeling like a fork in the road, or want to take a step to the side, or simply follow the classic path, you need to build your project, step by step, which doesn't necessarily happen before you leave school. It's a way of transforming a constraint into an opportunity. Indeed, if diplomas have value, it's because they necessarily allow you to envisage several possible directions. If it's the opposite, then the diploma isn't worth much in the end.


I therefore invite you to emphasize this job search (or position) process as "meaningful" for you, as a project in its own right, just like your friend who doesn't branch off. You therefore need to emphasize your method, i.e. the way you gather information, meet people, attend events, understand your attractions and the expectations of recruiters. In so doing, you'll be demonstrating to those around you that your approach is helping to build a project (your project) around a diploma (your diploma) that is so valuable that it opens up a wide field of possibilities .... even in the ecological and social transition. And that's how you'll succeed in transforming your quest for meaning into a professional reality!

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