Posted on 18 January 2008


Developing Students for a Competitive Workplace, Request for Comment!



Tomorrow, I am speaking to a group of thirty high school marketing teachers as part of the Utah Association for Career and Technical Education‘s mid-winter conference. (This invitation to present is thanks to a referral from Jason Alba who said I am “one of his favorite recruiters” which, for most people, is a very, very short list.  Thanks!)
I am fascinated by what these teachers are sharing with high school kids–stuff I only learned about in college:

  • The Four P’s of Marketing: Product, Pricing, Promotion and Placement
  • Entrepreneurship & Business
  • Business Law
  • Fashion
  • Computers, Web Marketing
  • Etc.

But, please help me answer this question: What do you WISH YOU LEARNED back then to prepare YOU for the workforce— or, what do you feel those entering the workforce in the next 10 years need to know?

Comments, Please

9 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Jeff Norris Says:

    The truth helps! When I was in high school (gosh 23 yrs ago). I was told that the IT geeks like myself would control the world, the economics future. In reality IT is the blood sucker of the bottom line. Yes I am still in IT and still fighting a battle of middle and upper management to explain that things like brain power come with a cost.

    Also you can’t have certification in the industry without real world training or vice versa. There are too many paper CCNA, MCSE that just are too wet behind the ears.

    I would have put down my fortran and pascal books for a network, microsoft, cisco book 20 years ago if they existed that loong ago.
    Post high school education is a must even in IT. If you can go to school and work in IT at the same time do it!

  2. roland smith Says:

    I went to school fascinated with computers and all they could do. After school I spent the next several years learning how to do business and the language of business. Until I could talk in user-language, I wasn’t able to be effective as an IT person. I wish school had included much more about finance, HR, manufacturing, etc.

    Today’s youngsters come out of school with skills but don’t know how to translate business into application (let alone know how to put together a well-worded sentence).

  3. Thom Allen Says:

    Hey Robert, great question and one I wish education counselors were equipped to answer.

    For me, twenty plus years into my career, I wish I would have taken the time to get a degree, and an advanced degree. I was sidetracked by the money and said I would get degrees later. Well, twenty plus years later still no degree. It’s a huge barrier to advancement now.

    Trade four years now for forty years of good solid employment. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

    What I would like to see from educators, is the desire to keep up with their students. Everything is about ipods, cell phones and xbox. But they have an opportunity to influence children now more than they do.

    Educators can’t ignore technology. They must embrace it. But what needs to happen is curriculum should be geared to show students how technology can be used to solve problems. We are still trying to teach out kids about an analog world. More Educators need to make the move into a digital world too.

    My advise and humble opinion only.

  4. Recruiting Animal Says:

    Most of my advice is related to the soft skills.

    1. Learn a skill that you can sell. Even if you are not a hard working student you can still learn a skill.

    2. If you are shy get help; it will hold you back in every area of your life. You might ask your guidance counselor what to do. Although if you’re shy you are probably too shy to tell someone you have a problem.

    3. If you have trouble getting your homework done, find some friendly but strict person or group to supervise you every night. A life without discipline is goes nowhere.

    4a. Don’t believe anything experts say. Just see if their recommendations work. And even a recommendation works, that doesn’t mean it’s a profound general truth for all time.

    4b. Don’t feel compelled to believe what someone says just because he or she is older or dignified or bossy or cool.

    5a. Learn how to defend yourself physically.
    5b. Learn a few tricks about how to de-escalate a verbal confrontation.

    6. Learn how to say no without feeling bad when the other person thinks you’re a goof.

    7. Learn how to take criticism or a loss without thinking it’s the end of the world.
    If you think it is you can’t see the forest for the trees.

  5. Steven Rothberg, Col Says:

    I wish that teachers and guidance counselors would get students to examine their competencies, interests, and values. I speak with so many Millennials who have the mistaken notion that they have to go into a particular career path because they’re good at it. But that’s only 1/3 of the equation. They also need to like it and they also need to care about it.

    Just because you’re good at math doesn’t mean that you should be an accountant, actuary, or physicist. Maybe you’re also good at communicating and love interacting with others and find that helping people is important to you. Then perhaps a career in sales may be a better fit. Or maybe you are good at math but value making a lot of money and love closing deals. Then perhaps you should sell securities.

  6. Colin Kingsbury Says:

    The biggest problems I’ve had with younger workers have nothing to do with technology or higher-level skills. Give them a good reason and these kids will inhale new skills and info at a phenomenal rate.

    The most serious problems I’ve had, and the ones that have done the most to damage the potential of fresh grads and the like, are very basic things, like understanding the difference between getting a job 95% done, and 100% done, and learning that avoiding painful tasks now almost invariably means paying the bill later with interest.

    Oh yeah, impulse control too. Of course, this affects an awful lot more than work, but it plays a HUGE role in short and long-term outcomes.

    I’m not going to inject myself into the millennial brouhaha with this–I was a fresh grad not that long ago, and I certainly had my dumbass moments, and they cost me.

    I have a college friend who teaches a class at our alma mater part-time, and one of the things he is bloody strict about is turning in projects on time. He’ll give extensions, but unless they’re for legitimate problems, he takes points right off the top. He has actually gotten into debates with profs over this. His explanation is that in industry, sometimes a deadline is just that, and blowing it means an F, and perhaps a major unplanned life event. Better they learn it now.

    Of course, the same thing serves as a parable of sorts for education in this country. Schools are able to pick an arbitrary point and say, “here’s your diploma/degree” and pronounce the student a graduate. While it’s not the school’s job to create perfect little future CEOs–students own responsibility for their lives and choices–schools do sometimes seem content to turn out a lot of 90% finished jobs.

  7. Jeff Says:

    I wish they had taught me how to make money. The business classes taught us a lot about how to keep track of money and people who have made money, but we never were encouraged to go out and get our hands dirty and actually try to sell something. Had they taught me about that in high school, it would have saved me a lot of wasted time.

  8. Robert Merrill Says:

    WOW. These are awesome comments. Here’s a few others I am just noting here that came to me in other ways so I don’t forget them.

    I asked Penelope Trunk of the Brazen Careerist what she thought and she sent over a few blog posts:

    Talibanbarbie says she should have married better or gone to medical school. lol

    Another twitter friend said “be loyal to my family/ myself above all else, a corp 2nd. To never agree to be hired for less w/ promise of a future true-up”

    Other resources I found at EmployeeEvolution:

  9. Park City Window Cleaning Says:

    The stuff you learn in school versus the stuff you actually do to make money are often too very different things. Some things you have to learn by doing. I love the quote, ‘All genuine learning is active, not passive. It is a process in which the student is the main agent, not the teacher.” Web design, web programming, e-commerce, graphic design, these are skills that you just have to work at over time I think.

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