With a rising high school senior in our household (pictured on the left), we’ve been spending a lot of time thinking, talking and generally obsessing about colleges this summer (way too much time if you ask our daughter!) Fortunately, this focus on “all things college” has some useful implications for my adult clients as well. Read on to learn how the college hunt relates to your job/career search.
1. College catalogs are a great source of job market information: If you’ve been considering switching careers, or if you’re searching for new ways to apply your skills in the job market, college catalogs (many of which can be viewed online) can give you a glimpse into the up-and-coming fields of the future. As we toured the colleges, I was impressed by the number of schools that offer programs in emerging fields such as environmental policy, bio-medical engineering and internet marketing. The students who take advantage of these training programs today, will become the future leaders of industry, medicine, and government tomorrow.
2. Online research is useful, but hands-on experience is priceless: Colleges have invested heavily in their websites and most of them are quite impressive. But, no website can give you the same level of information that you will gain by visiting the campus, talking with people and observing classes firsthand. Touring the schools helped our daughter to quickly refine her list of colleges. The same lesson holds true for your job search. Use the internet to do your basic research, and then meet with people and conduct informational interviews to get a more complete view of potential job opportunities.
3. The “Big Names” are not always the best choice: There is no doubt that being a graduate of Harvard, Yale or Princeton, (or an employee of IBM, Google, or McKinsey) lends a certain cache to your resume. But as we toured the colleges, I couldn’t help but notice that some of the “lesser” schools offered more innovative programming, progressive thinking and lower tuition than their Ivy counterparts. Likewise, many of my clients have discovered that working for smaller companies bring them a level of fulfillment, flexibility and control that is often lacking at the bigger, name-brand corporations.
4. Persistence = Results: Like most high school juniors, our daughter had only a vague sense of what she is looking for in a college when she embarked on this process. City or suburban? Large or small? Northern or Southern? Liberal arts or business focused? Over the last few months, as she toured the campuses and talked to advisors and students, the answers to those questions slowly began to emerge. While there was no one “aha” moment, each visit provided her with clues that ultimately helped her to better define her wish list. Whether you are searching for a “perfect fit” college or the ideal career, remember that a consistent, conscious and interactive discovery process will pay dividends over time.
5. Invest in Plan B: As anyone who has a child in high school student knows, applying to college in 2008 is not for the faint of heart. Competition for admission to the top schools is fierce, with many schools rejecting close to ninety percent of their applicants. Consequently, every student, no matter how impressive, needs to have at least one safety school on their list. The “Don’t put your eggs all in one basket” applies to the job seeker as well. No matter how bright your prospects appear to be, you should never assume a job is yours until you have the offer letter in hand.