I think the solution is to work in the other direction. Instead of working back from a goal, work forward from promising situations. This is what most successful people actually do anyway.
In the graduation-speech approach, you decide where you want to be in twenty years, and then ask: what should I do now to get there? I propose instead that you don’t commit to anything in the future, but just look at the options available now, and choose those that will give you the most promising range of options afterward.
It’s not so important what you work on, so long as you’re not wasting your time. Work on things that interest you and increase your options, and worry later about which you’ll take.
“What You’ll Wish You’d Known,” by Paul Graham
In my view, our college graduates—yes, even liberal arts majors—must know the following:
- Communication. This includes conversation (listening is part of it), public speaking, clear writing, and effective advocacy and argument. Employers consistently express frustration at graduates’ failings on this score. [Ed. You must have your writing and presentation skills honestly critiqued by others. Feel-good feedback is misleading and a disservice.]
- Branding, selling, and networking. Millennials are sometimes called the “self-esteem” generation, but they do not know how to brand or sell themselves or their services. They do not know that it is important to build relationships and connect emotionally with people who can use their services. They do not know that the best sales are not “sales” at all but a process of helping someone understand what’s best for his or her interests and how to act on it. [Ed. Self confidence and self esteem are not the same thing.]
- Ability to analyze. This comes through examining and thinking through case studies rather than just listening to lectures and repeating their contents. [Ed. And arguing with others, albeit respectfully and civilly.]
- Genuine awareness of the rest of the world. If students throughout college regularly read The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, they would have a sense of the economic, political, and religious forces in the world. [Ed. Great graduation gifts and they are available at most public libraries. We also recommend Reason Magazine.]
- Intense study of one BRIC country. That should include its language, history, politics, economics, culture, and business practices—with at least one semester abroad. The BRIC nations have already been the engine of global growth; Goldman Sachs projects that by 2050 they will represent 40 percent of global gross domestic product. Their combined economies could eclipse the total output of the current richest countries in the developed world. [Ed. We like China and India.]
- Starting a business. While it is unrealistic to expect all students to start businesses, learning the processes to do so would be the capstone in preparation for the world that awaits them. [Ed. You will learn more about other people – and yourself – if you start a business as you will only succeed if others are willing to exchange money for what you provide. The free market – voluntary exchange – is a great teacher.]
If graduates had these skills and experiences, they would improve their market value and therefore be more employable, able to pay off their debts, and be less at the mercy of future employers. Opportunities here and abroad would be endless.
“What College Graduates Lack,” by Burt Wallerstein
Success requires turning the job hunting process on its head. The way it normally works, you provide your credentials and they decide whether to talk to you. If your keywords (that is, college degrees) don’t match, they tell you to go pound salt.
But there is another way to approach this that can get you past the college requirement. Learn to talk shop before “credentials” dominate the transaction. ATH reader Thomas Lafferty explains it in the comments section of this blog posting: You can’t get a job because employers hire the wrong way. Tom basically wrote this column for me.
Take a look at his approach and, more important, his attitude. First, he dismisses his resume and avoids triggering the college credentials problem:
More and more at Via Meadia, we’re coming to believe that separating young people from the world of work into their twenties is a terrible, crippling idea. Work is a natural aspect of a rich and satisfying life; the artificial environment in which so many young people live stunts their growth, limits the development of important character traits and skills, and artificially extends a kind of feckless adolescence that is neither ultimately satisfying or helpful.
We don’t look to a revival of chimney sweeps or child labor in coal mines, but one of the tasks of the 21st century must be the development of a more integrated approach to learning and work. Kids should work more in their teens and twenties, and older people will have to be learning more as skills become obsolete and industries change.
We also like the notion of diversifying and generating multiple streams of income, which can include one or two small/micro businesses and one or two part-time jobs. The financial advice to diversify your assets also applies to your income. If you want to build a large or growth business you will need to focus, but if you are not driven by a big idea you should diversify. You should also recognize that serendipity will play a large part in your life.
Mockery, truculence, and minimalist living are best, then enjoy the decline. We also need a Revolving Door Tax (RDT) and to prosecute politicians and staff and their “family and friends” who profit from insider trading.