Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Graduate

My bride and I traveled to Central Texas this weekend for the high school graduation of my oldest younger brother’s youngest daughter. She is going to be a third-generation educator, following the footprints of her paternal grandparents, her mother and an aunt.

College is a given in my family—and my niece garnered enough in scholarships to maybe pay for her first year of school, thanks to the Cheerleader booster club, the Kiwanis Club, and a special endowment funded by the family of the superintendent of schools.

On Friday’s show we discussed the value of a college education thru the lenses of time and money invested--and the return on that investment. Would you invest $60,000 and four years of your life building a business that has a 30 percent chance of succeeding?

Not likely, yet there is research which now suggests 70% of college graduates are unhappy with their job within 5 years of finishing school. Combine that with the cost of an average college education at $60,000 and you’re looking at a $60,000 investment in education that only has a 30 percent chance of leading to a fulfilling career. I don’t like those odds.

Two key ideas emerged from the discussion we had with Luc D’Abadie, who is a recent college grad. Luc is a collaborator with Les and Andrew Hewitt in a project to give graduating seniors a better shot at success by developing their far-sightedness when charting their path through the maze of higher education.

Grades are not what they’re cracked up to be in the real world. Cornell University did a study that ranked GPA 11th on a list of factors important to potential employers looking at college graduated employment candidates. In fact, what school you go to and your major field of study is but a small part of the formula for the most successful college grads.

GPA doesn’t matter as much as passion, according to some pretty convincing data.

Dr. Srully Blotnick tracked 1,500 people for 20 years. He found that 83% had embarked on a career to make money, while only 17% chose a career based on what they loved to do. After 20 years, 101 of the 1,500 had become millionaires, and all but one of those millionaires was from the 17% who chose a career based on what they loved to do.

That passion should be paired with a philosophy that is open to real-life experiences as much as academics in school. Luc D’Abadie describes it as adopting an experience-focused mindset. And here’s the part that applies to all of us—not just college kids: when we step outside our comfort zone, when we network with influential people, when we expand our skill set through clubs and volunteering, our far-sightedness improves, and our chances for success are enhanced. For new college students, real life experience through internships and international exchanges provide invaluable perspectives beyond the lecture halls.

The main theme of D’Abadie’s research is that the pursuit of a career built around passion holds greater potential for success. How many of you are working in a job you never went to school for, but fell into doing what you love to do? Conversely--if you have found yourself laboring in an area that does not inspire you, but pays the bills, are you finding you're not feeling fulfilled by your work?

My niece is pretty passionate about teaching. She’s smart and talented, and never met a stranger. Odds are in her favor she’ll be successful.

One other thought to pass along from D’Abadie’s research: The average college graduate starts his or her new career with $30,000 in debt, and one in ten have over $80,000 in loans to repay. There is a direct correlation between the financial habits developed in college and financial success after graduation.

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