When I was younger I was always being told that the secret to getting a good job is getting an education. I know that I’m not the only one to receive this advice. In fact, I’m willing to bet almost every parent tells their kids this. It has been getting easier for people to get their degrees, and this means that the significance of a college education has changed. In some ways it’s more important and in other ways it’s less. It’s more important because a college degree is becoming the high school diploma. The majority of people used to graduate from high school then go straight to the work force (which is why a college degree gave you a huge opportunity at a good job). Nowadays a lot more people go from high school to college (which is why we don’t have that guarantee anymore). What this is doing is it is allowing employers to require college degrees for jobs that used to only need a high school diploma. They still pay the same wages, but they want more education. College is less important in the sense that it no longer gives you a leg up in the workforce because all your competition also has their degree. Companies are now putting more emphasis on job experience (wait a minute, my parents didn’t tell me about that). What’s a new graduate to do? We’ve always been told it’s good to be well rounded in your life for college applications, but not many of us were told that you need to be well rounded to be successful in general. As the workforce requirements are changing the advice parents give their children is staying the same. I still hear parents tell their kids, “Go to college to be success.” I feel like they are leaving out some important things:
1) College doesn’t guarantee anything without hard work.
2) Try out multiple jobs in college so you can gain experience in different fields.
3) Getting an A isn’t as important as actually understanding the material.
4) Even with a degree you’ll still have to start towards the bottom of your field.
5) Don’t take out a ton of student loans unless you’re going to an Ivy League school or becoming a doctor.
Some of these tips may seem like common sense, but I promise you that kids need to hear these things. We all need to start adjusting out attitudes and advice to match theses changing times.
Being an MBA student I’ve had a lot of opportunities to ask business owners questions. The one I like to ask is, “what problems have you seen when interviewing recent graduates?” I like this question because it tells me what not to do when I’m done with school. Everyone always answers the same way. They basically say that college graduates expect too much when starting their careers. They have always been told go to college to be successful. This has made them think that they are owed something when their done with school. Usually it’s that they will start out with a high paying job and they’ll automatically be a manager. When they get their reality check it usually doesn’t end well for the graduate, and they remain unemployed. They don’t want to start out at the bottom. If they did they wouldn’t have spent the money it costs to go to college in the first place (which goes up and up every year). Unfortunately there is rarely a way to get around starting at the bottom of an organization because the 4 year degree is now equivalent to the high school diploma 20-30 years ago. Another comment I commonly get form business owners is that new graduates don’t want to work as hard as the baby boomers did. They focus more on their balance between work and home (which means they don’t want to work more than 40 hours a week). Business owners don’t like this new attitude because they don’t know how to deal with it. They grew up when people were more than happy to work 60 hours a week because it meant more money. This idea that free time is more important than money is foreign to them. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing, but business structures will have to make this new workforce happy.
I mentioned above about keeping student loans to a minimum, and I wanted to tell you this story from my life that shows why this is important. I knew a girl that refused to work during school, and her parents couldn’t afford to help pay for her education. She also needed to go to school out of state to get the real college experience so her tuition fees were double. Her solution was to take out $50k in student loans. When she graduated college she decided that she wanted to be a teacher! She chooses a teaching salary with $50K in student loans? That was a bad choice, but she didn’t know what she wanted to do until it was too late. If her parent had given her a larger dose of reality there is a good chance she would have made smarter decisions. In many situations parents think it’s OK for their children to take about a lot of student loans because their going to college. I think they, just like their kids, need to realize there are no guarentees. That means that an abundance of student loans might not be such a hot idea. I get that parents are teaching their kids the lessons that they saw working while they were growing up. I respect that they are trying to help make their child successful. I just think it’s also important to watch the world around us and teach them lessons that pertain to here and now. Do you think new graduate feel like they are owed something? Have you seen a change in the workforce? Do you think we as a society should teach changes in the workforce in school?
Canadian Performer's Money
May 2, 2012 at 1:15 PM
Parents telling their kids to take out huge students loans because a college degree will guarantee a good job is the same as parents telling their kids to buy real estate because homes always go up in price. Look how good that advice has served young American families.
The worst is people who don’t know what they want to do in life, so they just go to college rack up student loans and party.
May 2, 2012 at 2:33 PM
That’s exactly what happens. I’m fortunate that I had grants to pay for my undergraduate degree, but I’ve had to take out loans for my MBA. Whether it’s buying a house or going to college, people need to look at the current state of our society before they give advice. Contrary to what many belive, good advice doesn’t stay the same forever. I think forecast is a huge part of having a successful future.
Canadian Performer's Money
May 2, 2012 at 2:49 PM
Like that advice you gave me last year to load up on Greek banks stocks! 🙂
May 2, 2012 at 3:09 PM
I agree and disagree.
From my experience, as well as the experience of tons of my friends/colleagues/etc is not so much that people aren’t willing to start working at the entry-level and work hard—the problem is that everyone wants “experience.” This, of course, is often times complete and utter BS because if you know someone, that stipulation seems to disappear. Didn’t an article just come out that says 1/2 of college graduates are underemployed or unemployed? I know so many people desperate for work they’ll take anything.
I also think when you start talking about student loan debt you might see people as “entitled” for not wanting to start by scrubbing toilets, for example. But the reality is that at the time, they don’t understand what they’re getting into when they take out these loans and when they get out of school, they realize they cannot afford the monthly payments on a minimum wage job.
For instance, in my line of work (I’m in the health care field) all I ever hear about is how there is a shortage of professionals like us and how huge this shortage is going to be. Yet getting your foot in the door is almost impossible even at the “entry level” because they all want experience—even in particular areas that are difficult to staff people. And it’s all pretty nonsensical anyway because regardless of where you go, you have to be trained (even if you have twenty years of experience) because every place might be entirely different.
What I do think needs to happen is that schools need to provide more internships and networking experiences. For example, I did an unpaid internship at one place for my entire summer and some places are seemingly put-off that I only interned in that one particular area. What can I do if that is my only option? I also think people should be required to attend a seminar before they are granted student loans. You think people know these things but they truly do not—I had to tell a woman not too long ago that she should absolutely not go through the bank/get a private loan for her son’s college tuition
Lastly—As for teaching, I did that too at one point and I was in a program via AmeriCorps that paid for my M.S. Also, there are a lot of ways to make more money in teaching—tutoring, taking on an extra class, teaching summer school, enrichment programs, etc. In some places you can have your loans forgiven if you teach at particular schools for at least five years. (Of course, we’re not talking great schools.) And in places like NYC, after about ten years or so, you make 70-75K and after twenty years 85-100K. So paying off a 50K loan seems doable (albeit not necessary in the first place) to me depending on where you live. You can even go into administration (AP, principal, etc) and make a lot more money.
May 2, 2012 at 4:05 PM
I’ve seen the experience problem myself and I agree it’s B.S. I wish someone would have told me to look for different jobs while I was in college to build more experience at different places. I worked in a restaurant for 5 years while going through college and at a different restaurant for 3 your in high school. When I graduated that’s all I knew. I was a restaurant worker with a finance degree. I couldn’t find a job doing anything but sales (like crappy insurance companies). I think if I would have look for more internships/ different jobs I would have been better off.
The whole new grads don’t want entry level jobs is something I’ve heard from at least 5 different business owners. They say that when they ask the interviewee what they expect to be doing they say managing people because they have their degree (with no management experience). I’m sure not everyone thinks like this (I didn’t) but I know it does happen.
All in all it usually comes down to who you know. I wish I did more networking during my undergraduate years. Thanks for the comment!
May 2, 2012 at 9:54 PM
Hi Chris. Thanks for discussing this issue. It is a global condition. In South Africa we have the same problem, mix that with a high level of unemployment and it is a recipe for disaster. I feel that parents and the education system around the world need to equip kids better about the workplace. The trouble is, like you said, the world is a very different place to the one that they grew up in.
May 3, 2012 at 8:02 PM
I think every problem we have is global in this world. Everyone is connected! All we can do is discuss the problems and hopefully more and more people will catch on. Thanks for the comment
May 3, 2012 at 5:28 AM
Reblogged this on This is MY Soapbox and commented:
This is very good advice! Freshmen’s hear me out: DO internships; WORK different jobs while your in school; and, most importantly MAKE some connections. Attend those events and meet people who are in your field. Don’t be afraid to ask them how the job is, how the job market looks like and how much money they are making in the end. If I could turn back the clock, that’s what I would have done.
May 3, 2012 at 1:59 PM
All my life I have worked full-time and tackled college part-time. I’m still going to college – one class at a time. Most employers paid for my college tuition. For the past three years I found the cost of my college fits easily on a credit card plus recently it’s been a good tax deduction.
You made good points about using college as a test ground for your future career. I’ve never understood any degree obtained some kind of job in mind. Research businesses, read job descriptions and talk to people working in those jobs. If you don’t know which job, why not go for a general degree you can build onto later with a certificate program?
I agree with minimizing the debt. Community colleges serve many people well for at a minimal cost because we pay for it through our taxes. If you are at bachelor’s level, state colleges make sense too. Private colleges selling you on their program may not always have your best interests in mind. Buyers beware. Find a part-time job that helps you go. My husband works for a UPS center; they employ many part-time workers going to college and help them pay for it.
I do think my biggest regret is not going directly to college full-time after high school for at least two years. Starting later into your college work takes much longer at a time when you have more obligations in your life like a dependent spouse, children or parents. Plus it’s harder to pull an all-nighter and to recall math from 15-20 years ago. I’m an advocate for nailing down a basic degree when you can live cheaply, put in long study sessions and have few people depending on you. Not having a degree at all severely limits the available jobs later in life, just as lack of focus or experience does.
You are completely right in that no one is entitled to start at the top coming out of college. In the current economy we all start at the bottom in new careers, with a degree or not. So why not do those volunteer projects or internships – you can come out of college with a head start on the experience game too! Everything worthwhile is worth working for.
Excellent posting – you got me going! Keep them coming.
May 3, 2012 at 8:10 PM
I know what you mean. I work full time and go to school. I should have been able to get my MBA in a year, but it will end up taking me 2 1/2.
I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have a specialized degree if it’s something that is in demand, and not everyone is doing it. My friend got his degree to be a hydrologist. He got a great job right out of college. He was only successful because it was in a field that needed people and no one else wanted to be a hydrologist!
May 6, 2012 at 12:49 PM
I think this is a great article, however reading your last reply about your hyrogeologist friend is an indicator that there are fields not enough people are venturing into. It’s like science degrees, they pay more hands down. But, how many people do them? If we can get more of our kids to do science and become more competitive globally we can raise the anty on the salary as well.
May 6, 2012 at 6:40 PM
it’s also getting the right science degree. I know a ton of people with a biology degree, and they can’t find jobs. Thanks for the post!
May 7, 2012 at 3:20 AM
Biology is a big degree in environmental fields…maybe they are in the wrong region? Also do they have a MS or a BS?
May 7, 2012 at 6:33 PM
BS The problem is so many people have them
May 8, 2012 at 5:42 AM
Really? That is interesting. I may have to research that.
May 9, 2012 at 6:48 AM
It’s also a problem because any job they apply for requires a lot of experience. That means that they usually have to work seasonal jobs until they get either get a lot of experience or until they get lucky!
May 12, 2012 at 1:38 AM
Thanks for this article, I really enjoyed it and agreed with a lot of it. During college I was lucky enough to have the foresight to get a few internships with the federal and state government as well as work for different companies (large and small). Doing this–as well as actually applying for jobs–helped me know what I wanted to do and what skills are actually important.
For people looking to get into a specific field, do some research before getting an undergrad or grad degree and wasting time and money for something that may not develop a skill set. Also, if you need or want to learn something, there are many different free online classes you can do. For example, I am learning C++ using YouTube tutorials and books and I am learning how to promote a non-profit by volunteering there in my free time.
Mark P. Holtzman
May 20, 2012 at 7:19 PM
Chris, once again you said it all:
“Getting an A isn’t as important as actually understanding the material.”
Go to college for the education, not for a piece of paper.
May 22, 2012 at 5:55 PM
It took me a long time to learn that lesson! I really think that’s why college would be more effective with a few years of real work under a student’s belt. Thanks for the comment!