I’m a college professor. I love it. Best day-job in the world. I should have left the corporate world long ago because the opportunity to give back and help to prepare students for their careers is awesome. And they pay me for it! Despite all of this greatness, there are some things that are still lacking in most of our colleges and universities today. As a result of this lack, students are not as prepared as they need to be as they look to enter the workforce.
You see, there is no one secret to success. Schools of higher learning have (for too long) decided that we must follow the traditional route in order to achieve societies definition of success. And those of us who have graduated from these institutions keep the myth going as if we are hazing neophytes attempting to enter our beloved fraternities or sororities.
And don’t me get started on capitalism – the blessing and the curse as I like to call it. Of course, your success in a capitalistic environment often depends on many different variables. (We’ll get into that one in a different post.) It is tough out here and in order to truly “make it” in this dog-eat-dog corporate environment, it is important that you follow and pay attention to both the success and the failures of others.
Capitalism: The blessing and the curse . . .
— Peter A. James (@drpaj) November 19, 2015
Ultimately, we have to compete. Competition is the life-blood of capitalism. Those who do not embrace this fact will continue to remain mediocre. But wait, there is nothing wrong with mediocre. We do need mediocre people in this world. I just “choose” not to be one of them.
Most of the success (or failure) of our students will loop back around to mindset and self-awareness. These are not foreign or new terms – just repackaged. But I don’t know why they aren’t molded into the brains of our young people. As an example, we’ve done a great job (overall) with sex education in this country. This is evidenced by current teen pregnancy statistics (CDC). This clearly demonstrates that our education system can make an impact on our kids for the better. Then why not employ these same techniques in order to better prepare our young people for their careers?
But are we really teaching our kids how to succeed? And I’m not talking about sports and entertainment. Parents living vicariously through their kids will impress drive, determination, will and focus in order for them to achieve a scholarship or the remote chance to play professional sports. But are these same characteristics driven into any other career goal? As a quick example, are we doing enough to teach our sons and daughters how to study and prepare for tests, interviews or speeches. I am talking real preparation. Sure, everyone studies and retains information differently, but truly hitting the books and preparing (not just for tests) is becoming a lost art.
Other countries seem to do a much better job preparing their young people to embody this drive, determination, and “never quit” mentality – which is evidenced by the number of immigrants who come to the US and succeed. Maybe Daymond John has it right – there is power in broke – or not having anything in order to “make it”.
So, without further ado, below are ten topics and/or conversations that all colleges and universities should incorporate in order to better prepare their students:
- Get accustomed to uncomfortable – Rarely does any successful career include just checking the box. It always includes stepping outside of your comfort zone in order to achieve your own definition of success.
- Changing careers is never bad. Neither is changing majors. I have changed careers 3 times. I know others who are doing it again after 5 attempts. I highly encourage it until you find your passion.
- Job security does not truly exist outside of entrepreneurship. And even that is suspect. No employer must keep you just because you agree to work for them. But here’s the silver-lining, you don’t have to keep them either.
- Life is not fair. There is no such thing as equality. There will often be no explanation for why someone else gets a promotion and you do not. It often comes down to who you know. Therefore, get used to unfairness inside and outside of the workplace and learn how to overcome it. This attitude will make you stronger.
- 90% of everything on television is fake. Therefore, get to work, keep a budget, begin saving for retirement and work your butt off. You do not need a BMW. You don’t need a Tesla. A Corolla will do just fine and with better gas mileage.
- Adopt coping mechanisms. You will encounter many struggles inside and outside of the workplace. Death, divorce, lost friends, layoffs, reorganizations, having 10 bosses in 5 years, etc. It is OK to grieve, but life must go on. It is important to learn how to handle different levels of stress. As an example, the stigma of going to see a therapist, counselor or psychologist should now be extinct. No matter what major or career a student chooses, there will be roadblocks, obstacles and barriers that they will undoubtedly face. Therefore, adopt the best ways to embrace and overcome change.
- Surround yourself with the right people. You’ve heard this one before – you are the average of your 5 closest friends (Jim Rohn). YOLO is not appropriate in every situation. Going to bed at 3am every night is also a recipe for disaster. Close friends can have goals, aspirations and want to give back to society, also.
- Salary is not everything. I have met the most miserable people making a lot of money. I have met the happiest who have nothing. Find your space. The old adage is true – more money, more problems. Therefore, identify how much responsibility you truly want early in life.
- Internships should be mandatory. Today more than ever, learning about the workplace prior to entering it should be mandatory. Students should not have to discover the corporate world for the first time after they have accepted their diploma.
- Take risks early. Waiting until you are 40 with 3 kids is the wrong time to decide that you need to find yourself. Now is the time to go all out and discover your passions (and the world).
Ultimately, our current students should be better prepared for the future than those of us who graduated before them. There are just too many resources that can be included in order to better prepare them. However, the uncertainty that persists as they leave the hallowed grounds of academia is unsettling. Simple concepts such as goals, average salary, and interviewing seem to escape them. All at the price point average of over $30,000 in debt when it is all said and done. Something has definitely got to change. Let’s see which institution dares to be that something.