After 18 school years, my daughter’s formal education is now over. This weekend she’ll graduate with two university degrees neither of which will provide her with instant employability but do provide her with valuable concepts to lead a fulfilling and rich life.
To her credit and perhaps detriment, she decided that future employment was not the single-most important reason for learning. Instead, she was enthralled with the idea of learning for learning sake and decided to study "thinking" instead of science, nursing, education or business.
Over the course of 5 years, she has attempted to train her mind to think rather than do and although it may make her near-future employment somewhat questionable, I have no doubt that she will go on to do great things in the life that lies ahead of her.
A few years back, I was determined to have that dreaded parental heart-to-heart talk with my son and daughter. Not the talk about the "birds and the bees"...but rather the talk about economic realities.
Up until that point, our children had led a fairly economically sheltered life. They always had what they needed without any great stress or worry about financial constraints. They attended private schools, were given transportation, they were afforded camps, extra-circular activities, lessons, and memorable vacations.
Their mother and I had made a pact with them while they were young and attending school. They would work hard to study, learn and earn good grades, and we would provide for them financially.
Quid Pro Quo...something for something...
Now that the end of their academic careers is in plain sight, it was time for them to learn the harsh economic realities of the world that we live in. There was no printing press in our basement, no geese laying golden eggs, nor money tree to pluck $100 bills from.
Plain and simple, they would soon need to be gainfully employed in order to earn money in which to live. They also needed to learn that they must keep their expenses below that of their revenue; understand the valuable concept of investing in a portfolio of appreciating assets (real estate, stocks, bonds) rather than spending money on items that have no residual value (such as entertainment and transportation); and never using debt or credit to fund expenses.
The first step in the new financial reality is acquiring gainful employment. Although the eye-catching headlines in the newspaper report a national unemployment rate of approximately 10% (in some places it’s higher and in some places it’s lower), it still means that there are 9 people in 10 who are actually employed in some manner.
I have explained to my children that the key to becoming and staying employed is to demonstrate to an employer that you can and will perform three key functions at your perspective place of employment:
- Earn or save the company money
- Create solutions to problems and develop new ideas
- Don’t create more problems than you solve
If an employer pays you for your time, then you need to, in turn, create a return-on-investment for that employer. The more profits that you create for your employer; the more they are willing to pay you. The way to create more profits is by having skills, experience, and efficiency to do something faster, better, and less expensive for your employer.
When a company hires a person in an "entry-level" position, they fully recognize that the person may have limited skills and experience and therefore pays this person accordingly. As you garner additional skills and more experience then you will become more valuable.
One of the best ways to create a return-on-investment for the employer is to become a "problem-solver" not a "problem-maker" or simply a "problem-identifier". When you demonstrate the skills to solve problems, both internally and externally... then you have become more valuable. By taking on additional responsibility and/or projects that no one else wants to do...you have become more valuable.
By being observant and cognizant of what needs to be done...and then taking the initiative to do it (without needing to be asked)...you have become more valuable.
If you are reliable and get your job done on time and under budget...If you show up, on time and ready to work each day...If you are always friendly, have a positive attitude, add to the team and help to build consensus among your co-workers...If you are always thinking about how to add to the company rather than what you’re going to get...
Then you have become more valuable.
As you become more valuable...your wages and/or job security will increase. You will be given new opportunities and new responsibilities. Your reputation within the industry will grow and your talents will be highly sought after.
Sometimes, certain positions do not need additional skills and experience (perhaps such as a fast-food server or busboy). Therefore, there may be the need to leave a position and apply your talents and skills in a new position (perhaps with another company).
I’ve tried to explain these concepts to my children and hopefully they’ll pay heed.
In the end, we all need to earn a certain amount of money to live our lives but money and/or a career should never be our sole pursuit. If our goal is to be wealthy in terms of dollars and cents, then we surely will lose our way.
A wise friend once told me that from 8 to 5 we make our living...but the rest of the time we make our lives.
Although my daughter studied the philosophy and thoughts of great men and women...my fatherly advice to her upon graduation into the "real world" is relatively simple:
- Work some...play some...rest some...life should always be in balance.
- Make your foot print not in the sand but in concrete where it will hopefully last forever. Be remembered for doing great things and touching the souls of people.
- Continue to learn something new each day.
- Never be afraid to love or be loved.
- Respect your fears but always try to find the courage within you to overcome them.
- No matter what happens...never give up or stop trying to be the best person you can be.
Congratulations Sarah on a job well-done!
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we hope to inspire young people to live a life worth living.