The Class of 2020 Is this Generation Resilient?

The Class of 2020
Credit: Baim Hanif
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Mentoring future hoteliers who graduated this year from a Bachelor of Arts or Master’s Programme in Hospitality Management in Switzerland gave us an insight to the Class of 2020.

When the coronavirus swept across the globe and gradually locked down countries, schools closed their doors and all the natural markers of being a senior were gradually canceled or made virtual: classes, internships, exams, thesis presentations, parties, graduations and much more. 

Going from bad to worse, the traditional ceremonies that unite the Class of 2020 during graduation as they walk across the stage to be recognized for their individual achievements were also cancelled. Graduations were postponed to later this year or the spring of 2021, so there were no jubilant celebrations, no hugs and kisses, and no flipping of a tassel on their cap which symbolise the move from one phase of their life to another.

Rubbing salt into the wound, many college and university seniors have been told that the job and career they were waiting to start is no longer there. As they enter a space known as the real world, they are being forced to contend with some of the greatest challenges of adulthood. Many are very concerned about their future and walk around with heavy hearts and worn spirits, some feel powerless in limbo as they returned back home, and others feel frustrated and trapped by their situation and want to rattle one’s cage at the unfairness of it all. 

Like many in the Class of 2020, we had never experienced – until now – any event that brought life to a complete standstill. Uncertainty is our present and future reality and we know that there is no going back to normal on our immediate horizon, or ever. We do not yet have the comfort of knowing what comes next. We’re all trying to make sense of our world, asking ourselves some difficult questions and rethinking what is truly important in our lives. We are trying to positively live with uncertainty and learning to retrain ourselves as we see businesses try to adapt or go under.  We see people learn to think and act differently, and even love our neighbours differently as we gain strength in a supportive community.

The Class of 2020 will get knocked down but they will get up again. Many are very concerned at how a virus can hammer travel and tourism businesses and bring it to its knees.  Many are rethinking their dream career choice in the hospitality sector and reviewing their options. These young people have mountains to climb but despite these challenges, many remain committed to starting the next phase of their lives. 

Emerging Adulthood is a distinct demographic. Jeffrey Arnett, a psychologist at Clark University explains that ages 18 to 25  is the time of life when young people lay the foundation for an adult life — both professionally and personally – and there is growing concern that financial hurdles can have long-term negative effects on earning potential.  The risk is not just limited to economics with a growing number experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder or a major depressive disorder, or both.  The odds are against this age group but there is some good news. In his 25 years of studying those in emerging adulthood, Arnett says he has noticed a phenomenon – that their resiliency comes from the power of their belief in the future and this is enough to motivate them to press forward. Young people are often confident that whatever struggle they are facing now is temporary and will soon pass and this gives them the ability to bounce back from even the most daunting of circumstances. 

The Class of 2020 is the generation of new graduates who are impacted by intersecting threats and crises – pandemics, climate emergencies, protests against centuries of racial injustice and against governments that brutally erode civil rights, and a global crisis of trust.  Many who are conscious and concerned about these human induced challenges are taking to the streets or virtually protesting and demanding justice, accountability and transparency, and proving that they have an important role to play in changing the world. These smart, action oriented and passionate changemakers will be the inspiring leaders of tomorrow. They are choosing to be part of the solution and in them, we will find hope and something great.

It must be NOW!

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