Archive for January, 2009

My fourth strategy for Going to College Without Broke is huge! Imagine spending $200,000+ and four years of your life pursuing a career and discovering, after the fact, that you don’t really like it, or you’re not very good at it.

It happened to me. I decided in high school that I wanted to be an architect. I devoted my undergraduate degree to preparing for a master’s program in the field. I didn’t have the money to go straight into architect school, so I tried to get a job as a helper or apprentice, only to discover that I lacked the artistic talent needed to become a good architect.

It also happened to my daughter Natalie. She even worked four internships in marketing and public relations during college, including one with the firm she ultimately went to work for. After working six months she decided that it wasn’t the right career for her. Now at the age of 22 she is already trying to start a new career!

Want more? Over the holidays I spoke to a number of young people (under the age of 25) who were one to three years into the career they thought they wanted to pursue and now find themselves question that decision.

The truth is that many people actually back into this monumental mistake. They enter college in a general “liberal arts” track hoping to figure out what they want for a career along the way. They take core classes for two years that neither help them decide what to do with their lives or teach them things that they didn’t already learn in a pre-college high school track.

Suddenly it’s junior year and you have to pick a major. People frequently make this decision without ever talking to someone in that vocation or actually setting foot in a typical place of work.

Then you graduate and try to find a job. Without any experience it’s tough to find a job, but if you do, only then will you find out if you actually like that kind of work!

Is this any way to make the first major decision in your life?

Fortunately, young people have multiple vehicles for discovering their aptitudes and assessing potential careers, but far too often they “go on a hunch.” This is insane. Not only is it an incredible amount of money, but it’s four years of your life that you can never get back.

The great philosopher Aristotle said — “Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation…”



Great advice, except forone thing – is it something you really want to do for the next 40 years?

When I finally settled on business as a vocation, I didn’t realize that I had inadvertently backed into the industrial pigeon-hole of “High Tech.” After working for 6 years (and getting married, and having a mortgage), I discovered that no one wanted to hire me outside of the high tech industry! Thus began three decades of working in the high tech industry and ultimately relocating to Silicon Valley in order to help my career flourish.

So again, this is huge. If you’re a student, be advised that whatever you’re thinking is probably going to turn out to be wrong. If you’re the parent of a student and you’re sharing your advice, you’re probably just making things worse.

Validating your career aspiration is absolutely critical and it’s something that you’re unlikely to accomplish without leaving the campus.

The first thing I recommend is to get an objective assessment of your true aptitude. Many schools have access to tools like Discover ACT, Valpar, or Focus, but, if I had it to do over again, I would have taken the two-day program at Johnson O’Connor Research Center.

Johnson O'Conner Research Foundation

Johnson O'Conner Research Foundation

The second thing I’d do is something called “shadowing” or “externships,” where you find someone who’s already working in the career you’re interested in and you spend a few days with them on the job.

Finally, work as many internships as possible; but that’s a strategy for another day…


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