Recent college grads are 'emotionally' unprepared for 9 to 5 jobs, study shows

Amanda del Castillo Image
Thursday, March 2, 2023
Recent grads not 'emotionally' ready for workforce, study shows
Recent college graduates are not "emotionally" ready for the workforce, according to a new study by the Mary Christie Institute.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Recent college graduates are not "emotionally" ready for the workforce, according to a new study which looked into the mental health and wellbeing of young professionals.

Social media, political and cultural divisiveness, pandemic disruptions and more, all make a list of factors impacting the professional lives of young adults who graduated in the last few years.

"Because we have this mental health overlay now, anxiety, depression, suicidality and substance abuse, it's just seems to be a lot harder. And the world's kind of a harder place to enter into," Santa Clara University Psychology prof. Dr. Thomas Plante told ABC7 News. "And so it's no surprise that people are going to struggle with this."

Dr. Plante weighed in on a recent survey by the Mary Christie Institute. It sampled 1,005 adults, between 22 and 28 with at least a bachelor's degree, uncovering most are emotionally unprepared to survive in the 9 to 5 workplace.

Among key findings, more than half admitted to seeking help for emotional problems including anxiety or depression in the previous year. Another 53% noted experiencing burnout at least once a week.

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The survey also found 39% blamed their colleges for not teaching them workplace skills or emotional and behavioral standards.

"I don't think you can blame colleges for this, because students come to us already burnt out, stressed from high school and everything else," Dr. Plante added.

"We have the influences of social media, we have the influence of gun violence, we have the influence of climate change, we have the influence of discrimination and racism, and we got a lot of things on our plate," he said.

The population also navigated a coming of age during the COVID-19 pandemic, which kept many in the comfort of their own home.

"I've had some of these students who come from privilege. They were at their home in Hawaii and they were at their home in Aspen. And they kind of didn't like being off campus, but they could adapt pretty well. They had the technology, they had the resources to be able to adapt," Plante told ABC7 News. "And some people were the exact opposite."

MORE: COVID pandemic's mental health burden heaviest among young adults

Beyond accessibility, all were unable to hone in on typical real-life experiences during the pandemic.

"They're now getting to that real world. They're getting to an office environment where there's a lot of tension with coworkers, there's an opportunity to get fired or get a demotion, and they're just not ready for it," Andrew Crapuchettes, CEO and founder of said.

RedBalloon is a job board which prides itself on uniting businesses and job seekers who, "Value and preserve the freedom to work."

Crapuchettes described, "If you want to spend less time focusing on the current excitement on Twitter or the current political ideologues, and instead want to actually just focus on your job - that's what RedBalloon does."

"If you have an employer where you spend all your time and effort focusing on things that have nothing to do with the business, and you're putting them through DEI training, instead of getting them the training they need to be good at their job - that actually can be demoralizing to people," he added.

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Though he acknowledges mental health hardships, he also said employers are reporting young adults out of school just don't have a desire to work, or work hard.

"What we're hearing over and over again is that young people don't want to work. They simply are a generation that hasn't been hungry, they don't have this desire to work," he described. "And so they'll do interviews with people who simply are like, 'Well, I could show up at 10 if that works,' and the employers like, 'How about eight,' and they're like, 'I just don't see that happening.'"

Whatever the influence, the study points to the prevalence of mental health issues among recent college graduates as they begin their careers.

Dr. Plante told ABC7 News, "All of a sudden, boom - they're into the work world that might also involve commute, it might also involve very few vacations or breaks and so forth. And that's going to be, to be fair, that's going to be a transition for anybody. "

"We live in the world we live in. We have to adapt and accommodate," he continued. "And we do have a lot of tools in our toolbox that we can offer to help people cope and manage."

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