We are back from the break and it is great to see all the students and activity on campus! I used the break time to catch up on reading books and blogging. During the break I responded to a post regarding a coming study to evaluate how the college experience enables graduates to pursue life and career success. I added a comment but someone else’s post caught my eye. This post related to how the paths we choose to follow after college influence our success as much as what we study. This caused me to reflect on how many successful people, without planning, use their first college experience only as a basis for a starting a career.
After a few years to build experience and gain a little maturity in a career, today’s technology driven world provides great opportunities for those that are willing to look outside their original training for new problems to solve. In fact, many progressive companies like Google, Apple and Amazon are well known for their open-ended interview questions that test thinking, problem-solving and behavioral skills rather than seek to find knowledge gained from a specific award or educational experience. A classmate at a training event I attended last year, a Russian computer scientist named Roman and an employee of the online retail giant Zappos, shared that company’s interview process with me. Zappos asks potential employees, “What superhero would you be?” For those of you that are curious, my answer is Iron Man, with never ending funds to develop gadgets to protect society from evil. Who would you pick? However entertaining these questions may seem, the point is to find out more about a person than what their resume shows. Let me continue.
In another recent education blog, author Jeffery J. Selingo, editor at The Chronicle for Higher Education, comments, “The curiosity and the willingness to adapt are more important than what the degree is in.” History is full of people who started down one path, only to be destined for another by the choices they made and chances they took. For example, historical figure Benjamin Franklin was trained as a printer’s apprentice but eventually became not only a key player in shaping the United States of America, but also an inventor, who created items still used today, including bifocal glasses. Charles Goodyear was trained as a blacksmith but invented rubber. Herb Kelleher was trained as an attorney before he studied NASCAR pit crews, which became the foundation for running Southwest Airlines. By the way, Roman at Zappos; he now works with shoes more than computers.
Still today, data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that in 2010 only 27 percent of college graduates had a job that was closely related to their major. As the economy and job market continue to rapidly change, we must change along with it. Perhaps looking at education in a multidimensional way instead of linear; focusing more on the critical thinking and social skills we learn, on our life-challenging experiences and the rigor of work projects, rather than on a declared subject of study will help us stay ahead of the curve – be more marketable and successful in new jobs and careers. The so-called “terminal” degree or award is not terminal at all – It’s the start of a chance at many careers. It’s your choice, be flexible and continue to learn and change.