College to career

education-at-work-college-evolution“I can get a job regardless of where I go to college.” Max, a sophomore at Guilford High School said.

When young people say such things, it usually stems from hearing a well-meaning adult provide a partial truth.  In Max’s case, he heard this from the father of one of his friends, an electrician in the Shoreline, CT area.

When such advice is provided as a way of alleviating the stress of a highly motivated student, then the effect might be positive, even if the advice is not really accurate.

When the “it doesn’t matter where you go to college” advice is given to a typical 16 year old boy, it serves to decrease academic motivation.

I try to elevate the spirits of all those that work with College Counseling Connecticut or any of the entities that I run. I definitely focus on lowering the stress of college admission. But I do not mislead young adults with blanket statements about college to career issues.

The electrician was correct in one sense: to work as an electrician, the pedigree of one’s college is irrelevant.  This is true for all sorts of jobs.  That’s the partial truth.

The full truth, however, is that 22 year olds coming out of college who are not exactly sure what they want to do will have a significant advantage of exploring different fields, different geographic areas, and entering certain prestige obsessed careers if they attend elite colleges.  This is not the world as “it should be” but the world “as it is.” Telling teens otherwise is not responsible.

I want to be clear that I’m not an advocating obsession with prestige.  Instead, I’m highly sensitive to the pain of those who do not enjoy their work.  My recent book Career Path of Abundance is subtitled: Career Wisdom for Idealists Seeking Happiness and Success.  I often suggest that students follow a career path that might not be prestigious if the path will lead to happiness.  All things being equal, however, prestigious schools do matter for career outcomes.