What does the Class of 2021 want from work?

May 19, 2021, 4:32 PM UTC
Worksheet-2021 Grads
Five graduates at different stages of life tell their stories. From L to R: Alyssa Soto, Betty Valencia, Ahmad Aladawi, Mamunur Bhuiyan, Lallae Mirreza.
Photos courtesy of the graduates.

Welcome to Worksheet, a newsletter about how people are working smarter in these turbulent times.

In this week’s edition, S. Mitra Kalita looks at the next entrants to our workforce—from high school, college, and beyond—and their hopes for the future.

“We built a world we don’t even want to live in. So now what?” 

That was the title of Michelle Aboodi’s thesis for her MBA from Bard College. Aboodi, a former colleague, invited me to her presentation on Zoom a few days ago. As I listened to her urgent case for sustainability and why it must pervade all business practices, I wondered if her fellow classmates of 2021 shared the same frustration … and hope. 

So I set out to interview graduates this week, of high school, college, and beyond. The Class of 2021 is forever defined and changed by the pandemic, and yet impressively clear on what they want out of work, life and the balance between. Take Mamunur Bhuiyan, 17:

I turn 18 on May 21 and graduate in a month from Brooklyn Tech. I start at 8 and end at 11. Some days I end at 1:40 p.m. I’m in blended learning; one week, I go in three days and the other week, two days. It’s actually not as good as full school but better than just sitting at home. In in-person learning, the teacher gives you more. 

My dream school was Penn State. I got in but it was very expensive. I put a lot of thought into it. It was $200k for four years. Buffalo, I got a scholarship, grants and it’s in-state tuition. They gave me an estimate and I am still waiting for the full financial aid but I think I will pay between $10 to $15k a year. 

Worksheet-2021 Grads-option 2

Five graduates at different stages of life tell their stories. From L to R: Alyssa Soto, Betty Valencia, Ahmad Aladawi, Mamunur Bhuiyan, Lallae Mirreza.

So I am going to the University of Buffalo for aerospace engineering. It was expected I would go to college but I am the first in my immediate family to go college in the U.S. It was challenging and I asked my cousins for help on applications and the essay. 

At Brooklyn Tech, we took a lot of college classes so it gives a head start on what you want to do. I took aerospace engineering. I took AP Physics and Principles of Engineering and I did pretty well. I got CTE (career and technical education) certification.  

I was born in Bangladesh and came here in first grade. Most of my family lives near me. After we all got vaccinated, it was a religious holiday a few days ago, and we got together. It was Eid. My mom’s uncle, who I was really close to, died of COVID in Bangladesh, and so did our family friend in Brooklyn. 

My goal is to land as many internships as I can while I am in college. I plan to do my master’s. My dream job is to work for Boeing—that’s the goal. I just want to help out the company I work for as much as I can. I want a well-paying job to support my family and me. I also want to make sure I have enough time to give to my family of the future. That’s the goal, too. 

Kalita goes on to highlight the experiences of graduates from around the country, and how the pandemic has transformed they way they see the working world.

Read her full column here.

Wondering what else the future of work holds? Visit Fortune‘s Smarter Working hub presented by Future Forum by Slack.

This week's reads


Asian Americans say COVID has impacted their ability to advance at work. (Yahoo Finance)

Emergency Room

Women in health care are at the breaking point and leaving the sector. (The 19th News)

Code Switch

What it's really like to be queer at work. (Fast Company)

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