Should a graduate from college or university be able walk across the stage at commencement directly to a potential employer, hand over their degree and say, job please? Of course not, because a framed degree represents accomplishment, perseverance, grit, capability, critical thinking and does not represent a job voucher. The prevailing narrative about a university education revolves around employment as 56% of the public put an emphasis on career specific tools versus a well-rounded education. However, by conceding to this belief, society completely discredits accountability in the hiring process and undermines the critical human elements that speak to the individual, their interests, natural talents, interviewing skills, personal experiences and professional growth… quick, someone queue up the next millennial entitlement article, please!
Ok, before proceeding, let’s understand that we are in a process of throwing mud at the wall and wondering why it doesn’t stick. We can’t blame education. Blame millennials, blame government or believe that blaming Obama will solve the problem. We need to identify the dark underbelly of the problem – misconceptions, expectations and bad advice.
First, why can’t a well-rounded education and tools for successful employment be the same thing? Is this really a mutually exclusive conversation? I think not. The conversation is driven by a few key players, the most obvious is the media. Often we can find articles that don’t better our understanding and instead of diving deeper into the root of the problem, they fling mud.
But hold up, what exactly are these elusive job skills anyway? Academics claim they are producing individuals who can think critically, articulate persuasively, manage time/projects and contribute meaningful insight. These sound a lot like transferrable skills and the very tools needed to tackle the knowledge economy, or more importantly the unknown future. We face an onslaught of articles claiming machines are taking over and jobs will be lost to automation. According to Success Performance Solutions (SPS), 65% of the jobs that will employ current students in 5 years do not even exist today. How can anyone pinpoint specific skill-sets for jobs that haven’t even been created? If you know, please help humankind move forward and share with us! To me, it seems a diverse, transferrable, individually branded tool kit would be the best way to ride the employment wave of the future.
So who is making recommendations regarding skill-sets, employment and education? Parents are part of the conversation and while it makes a whole lot of sense they want the absolute best for their children, too many parents are making conclusions about what is best based on their outdated and largely irrelevant connection to how it was in the good ole days. But, the academic climate, personal and professional growth options and the entry-level job market is very different today than 20 or 30 years ago. Here lies the true gap between knowledge and advice. Here lies the essence of the well-rounded education versus career skill debate.
Many parents are still focused on traditional, linear academic paths to careers like Law, Medicine, Education, and Investment Banking. Yes, these are still lucrative and rewarding career paths, but the journey is challenging and any misdirected encouragement can initiate a butterfly effect. Parental advice regarding career skill selection is often derived from a 90%+ employment statistic, but unfortunately employment statistics aren’t synonymous with job satisfaction and what is truly best for the student.
One of my absolute passions and first true love in life was with the game of baseball. Anyone involved in this sport knows that being a left-handed pitcher with talent versus a right-handed pitcher with talent significantly increased your chances of getting noticed and making it to Major League Baseball (MLB or the Show). It is also known that parents have tried various tactics to ensure their kids become a lefty. Don’t believe me? Check out the how-to guides available online. The point is, if the child isn’t a natural lefty, parents are lowering the ceiling on capability and limiting their natural potential compared to letting the dominant hand present itself and improve the skill naturally.
Sadly, parents often give similar academic advice based on expected results like becoming an MD, LLB, MBA, CEO, CFA, CPA or PhD despite the child’s natural academic talent, interests and passion. Of course, this advice comes from a good place and we all want what is best for our kids, but pushing a student against their natural talent is restricting. If a baseball player isn’t a natural lefty, but you force him to be one, he likely won’t develop to his full potential and struggle to make The Show. If a student doesn’t like Biology, but is forced to pursue Medicine, they won’t realize their true potential because the skill-set and natural interests aren’t being listened to. In both cases, parents are leading their children directly towards a waterfall.
When considering expectations, we should look at metrics that will indicate the odds of success. If one is fortunate enough to receive an offer to play NCAA Baseball, they have a 9.7% chance of making it to the MLB afterwards. Parents often will support their kids in sports and give them every opportunity to develop and pursue that dream, despite the odds. And they should. In education, parents will give their kids every chance to become a Doctor, but often disregard the odds of becoming one. The reality is, in most cases it is easier for a college student to make it to The Show over making it to Medical School. According to BeMo Academic Consulting, you have a 4% – 10% chance of getting into Medical School.
The conversation will continue to state education should be designed to develop skill-sets that society ambiguously defines. Parents will continue to encourage what they believe is best by influencing children to pursue expectations that often ignore natural talent. Society in general will continue to hear what the media, the government and everyone else are saying, however, we would all do better if we just listened to what our interests and natural talents tell us. By doing so, a well-rounded education will work harmoniously with career specific skill development. By listening, more people would find a career they find rewarding and enjoyable.
Isn’t that what is truly best for our children?