Something funny happened when I graduated from college with a BS and a MAT….
I started hating college students.
Okay, maybe I have issues…One look at that homemade-tattoo, red solo cup, or perturbed, I-think-about-Plato-and-the-human-subconsciousness-for-fun look on their face, and I feel the sudden urge to punch a person. As if they’re the first person to be amazed at sleeping ’til 1pm or staying up all night! As if procrastinating on an exam, a paper, and a project is somehow Facebook-worthy….
But, eventually, I got to thinking. When I was a full-of-myself college student, I saw older 30-somethings as thoughtless sell outs! (My how the tides have turned…). But I still would have welcomed a chance to connect with or learn from them (or so I like to think).
So, I’m thinking there has to be a way to communicate with that fresh batch of 20-somethings who cycle through the Freshman 15, the Freshman Dystopia, and the Freshman anything else (drink-a-thon).
So, here for you, my efforts: How to Talk to a 20-Something.
Ask timely questions.
Use some context to figure out where they are in their studies and ask timely question. For Freshman, questions about roommates, navigating campus, and getting travel help home can be great conversation starters. For Sophomores and Juniors, focus on courses, class content, and things to do for fun (sports, friends, etc). Avoid the career and job conversation until at least Senior year, if at all.
Don’t push about a career.
From personal experience as a college student and personal experience talking to college students, careers are practically the C-word. Not everyone knows where they will be living over the next year, let alone what career they’d like to pursue!
Instead, ask about career-development opportunities: what are they reading? Where do they vacation or travel? What’s their favorite band? (Oh, scratch that, that question would probably get me riled up!).
Don’t play a parent.
One of my biggest faux-pas is putting my parent hat on. Finances, relationships, politics, and personal grooming are none of your business. Even if your little brother is happily accruing credit card debt or getting a little too active with the Green Party for your comfort, you’ve got to step back and let them learn their own lessons.
Live by example and talk about your success in paying off your credit card debt or how hard it is to save, but for goodness sakes don’t make their problem your problem! Doing so enables them, tortures you, and keeps you from having those friendly and care-free conversations you desire.
And finally, straight from JHubbs:
Talk the same way you’d talk to anybody!
Besides being careful to avoid potentially hot topics like politics, treating a 20-something differently from other people is a sure way to lose ground. No patronizing, name-dropping, or rolling of the eyes (okay, I’ll work on that one).