Recently I put out a request on Twitter for suggestions for my next blog post and the best suggestion was to write about inspiring new graduates who might lose hope starting out in their careers.
This is a particularly difficult time for any young person starting a career. Unemployment figures for young people are shocking at the moment. Depending on which country you are in, the unemployment stats for those under 25 ranges from 25% to 50+%.
This is a staggering amount of our existing and future talent going to waste.
People are very quick to point out the global economic issues for this problem but I believe that even if this recession had not come, there would still have been a growing problem with youth unemployment.
I believe there are two main reasons for this:
- A culture in schools of academia is king in the whole of life and will dictate any future success. Which is total garbage.
- And the second reason is the advanced and privileged world young people have grown up in for the past 20 years has skewed reality slightly and removed an intense need to break away.
The first reason is that society and our compulsory academic education system dictates that academic learning and achievement is the key to success in life. Anyone reading this who agrees with that can leave now. But I hope that everyone reading this will agree that this statement is not true. Yet everyone is told from the age of 5 that they must get good grades and go to University and if they do not they will end up sweeping streets or picking up garbage.
What this creates is a world where certain children who perform well academically are constantly praised year in year out and told all the time how they will go to a good college and that will be their ticket to a wonderful career and lifestyle.
On the flip side the other students who struggle in an academic environment are quietly written off to a certain extent. This then perpetuates the notion of achievement for the academically bright and emphasises the under achievement for those who are not.
This process sets off a dangerous psychological path for both sets of students. Over a period of many years the achievers start to get a sense of entitlement; “If I get good grades and graduate from a good school, I WILL get the best job”. The underachievers begin to believe they will never amount to much and will take the first job they are offered when they leave school, believing they are lucky just to have a job.
All of this belief that academic achievement is the key to success is the biggest load of BS to exist in our society. Most of the successful entrepreneurs I know do not have a single university degree between them (and that includes me). Every single wealthy person I know does not have a job or traditional career; they all own their own businesses or work for themselves. Nobody gets rich working for someone else (unless you are also a shareholder, which makes you part owner so that does not count).
In my time working for large corporates (I have worked at Citibank, Goldman Sachs and other international companies) I met and worked with some great people. Many of the best did not have a university education. The reason for this is because in the real world enthusiasm, natural talent for a job and REAL RESULTS determine success or entitlement to a career. Not a piece of paper from an academic institution.
When I say the real world I want to make a clear distinction, because all those teachers who preach to our children about the sole importance of academic achievement have usually never lived or worked in the real world. They went to school like the rest of us, then they went to college and then they went back to school to start work. What do they know about real working life? They get about 10 weeks of vacation time every year for a start, who else gets that?
Being a great teacher and role model for young people is an incredibly noble and wonderful thing, I don’t want to bash the teaching profession but if I want inspiration and valuable information every day about what it is like in Australia I would want to know from someone who has been there. Anybody can read a book or look at pictures on the internet about another country but if you want to really know and be inspired before going there yourself, you need to talk to someone from there or has at least been to that country.
So why are we relying on our teachers to inspire and educate our children about their future career path? Unless that career path involves teaching or similar public sector job they do not have the experience to dictate “this group of kids will do well in life and these ones will not”.
So after graduation you have a group of talented, educated young adults with often (but not always) an over inflated opinion of what they will achieve in life.
What they don’t realize is that they could achieve even more than they dreamed possible if they ripped up the degree certificate burned all their graduation photos and started from scratch. Because that is where they are. They are at the bottom of a very enormous pile and nobody cares about what grades you got when you were 16 or what extra curricula activities you took at college. They should forget everything they learned because 6 months in any great first job puts you on the steepest learning curve you have ever been on and will teach you that you knew nothing before you started.
They are at the bottom, they have to be humble yet enthusiastic, keen but not over excited, early or punctual in the morning but not watching the clock at 5.30. It is a very difficult balance.
It has been said by many notable people and entrepreneurs that anyone willing to work for free, work hard and learn quickly will undoubtedly get offered a well paid job at some point. But I meet many young graduates who have told me their first job will be so wonderful and well paid and yet they have not even had one interview yet. When they have this fixed sense of entitlement why would they take a job working for nothing or very low paid just for the experience?
I am generalizing I know there are those out there that would do anything for the experience so I know I am not speaking about all graduates.
This partly leads on to my second reason for youth unemployment and this applies to those with or without higher education.
For the last 20 years in the developed world we have experienced the highest standard of living ever. Even during hard times and even those on basic incomes can afford to put a TV in the child’s room and buy their teenagers a mobile phone. The internet is in nearly every home or at worst on the aforementioned mobile phone or at school. Foreign travel is cheaper than ever, a car or even 2 cars (or more) in every family is the norm. Satellite or cable TV, 200+ channels of entertainment, games consoles, computers, cheap new clothes and inexpensive food are all just everyday things to anyone under 25 but 20 years ago these were not the norm at all.
With all of this and parents relaxed attitudes towards their children and an acceptance for them to stay at home longer has led to a lack of requirement for young people to push themselves to work even in a crap job at first because they have such a comfortable life at home.
If I was not a homeless teen would I have pushed myself as hard? Probably not. But I know I am an extreme example. I know others my age and older that had such a basic home life with overbearing parents that leaving home at 18 was a dream come true. Even if they were living in a total shit hole and working two crap jobs just to pay for it, it was a far better option than staying at home. I am not suggesting for a minute that this does not happen now but this was a common story 20 years ago, now it is unusual and for those considered unfortunate.
With a very comfortable and privileged life which young people do not see as privileged, without a need or requirement to leave home young and without the life experience this gives you, young people are disaffected and unmotivated. If you then couple this with the disappointment of finding out that they were lied to for 15 years; having a good degree does not automatically land you with a great job, then we end up with a well educated but depressed, unemployed statistic.
Sorry that this has been a bit uninspiring and a little negative so far and not the motivational post that was requested but I am coming on to the good part now.
The good news to all of this is that it can be easily fixed.
If young people just went out into the world with no preconceived ideas about their career, if they can accept that life is an adventure if they want it to be. Life is not an adventure in a comfortable bedroom at your parents house spending hours on Facebook or world of war craft. The real world is full of opportunities and not the kind that any university degree will help you with.
Some young people go on a gap year to find some adventure before embarking on working life. I would suggest that you do that for the next 10 years or even the rest of your life and you don’t need to go abroad to find it. Just a few hours drive away or even closer is as far as you need to go outside your comfort zone to find something new and exciting.
Life does not have to be a chore so gap years and vacations are required to get a break from it. That is our own design and it does not have to be like that. I have now designed my life so every day is fun and I do what I like doing. I am here writing this because I enjoy it, not because I have to.
So to all those graduates here is my advice:
Life is not an adventure in a dorm room or the student bar or hiding in your parents house.
Keep the degree and education on your CV or resume, it might help you get your foot in the door but that is it. Other than that forget it exists. Make a decision to go and have an adventure in life, work 2 bar jobs just to pay for a small apartment and/or some travelling. Consider starting your own business instead of taking a job. You will never be this enthusiastic, confident and “infallible” again so make the most of it.
Don’t get disheartened because the guy you went to school with who got bad grades and did not go to university now earns twice as much as you, that’s life. I am sorry you were lied to but it happened, get over it.
Now and in the future question everything you get told and society “dictates”. Don’t let yourself get sucked in again. Look at those operating just outside the rules and the normal masses, note how successful they are. Be like them, be better than them, don’t be like everyone else. Being like everyone else in the room is just a recipe for mediocrity, not brilliance.
Brilliance is not a gift, it’s a choice. If you choose to be different, special or brilliant, you can be. If you choose to be like every other person leaving university chasing the same jobs in the same way then that is exactly what is waiting for you for the rest of your life. Choose to be better than that.
One last thing: Life is not governed by strict rules, grades and fairness like in school. Life is unpredictable and hard sometimes. You can work hard every day in your life and never achieve the “grade” you deserve. Life is about bending the rules and shaping your own system and never following the rules and systems that someone else is setting down for you. Follow your own path, have an adventure.
If you want to read one more book or study anything else after leaving school: For more information on my theories and guidance for improving your life, find freedom and entrepreneurship see my ultimate guide to achieving success, my book How To Be Lucky and Direct Entrepreneur Course. This is my manual and a life course that anyone could use.
If you would like some help with marketing your business or just to share your experiences I would really like to hear from you. Get in touch via the form below and I will email you back.