Sunday, November 23, 2014

Why Your College Degree Is NOT Enough

Two weeks ago I delivered a presentation to college seniors about the importance of career mentoring. My colleague who invited me to give the virtual talk didn't realize how she challenged me to determine what I felt these young men and women needed to know. As I thought about what I wanted to share with impressionable students who are embarking upon graduation, it was easy for ME to see that they will be propelled into a world where learning the invisible rules is the beginning of Wisdom, but how do I convey this to them? The conclusion I came to was: Your college degree is not enough. I'll explain.

For those of us who have been in the workforce for a while, we know that a college degree may have been a ticket to entry, however, it did not compensate for the work that had to be done to justify your existence in cubicle land. Once your college education is complete, now you have to get an "education" in Corporate America. You have to become business savvy, relationship savvy, politically savvy, and even spiritually savvy, to survive and advance in a place where change is the norm. Understanding how to strategically advance your career and navigate situations that can damage your brand is one of the keys to success, but you can't do it alone.

There was so much I wanted to share with these young minds who are full of potential and passion. You could hear the pride in their voice as they confidently spoke about the prize they will soon claim. The harsh reality that you may not use your degree for what you intended, your career may take many detours, and people will disappoint you, is something in which no one can really prepare you. Hopefully, like so many of us who have walked this road before, they will learn to forgive (maybe not forget), and Wisdom will reveal that this is all one big life lesson to not only serve them, but to also serve others in the form of mentoring. 

If you've had the privilege of having a mentor, then you know the value of gaining wisdom at someone else's expense. Mentoring is like being given the game codes to the level you are on (and several levels above) that allow you to navigate your way out of potential pitfalls. I've had a few mentors over the years and my success in part is due to the wisdom they poured into me as well as my ability to take notes (and execute well!).

Some of the lessons my mentors shared are timeless:
  • Continue to learn new skills or become obsolete 
  • Know the importance of developing relationships internal and external to the organization  
  • Sign up to take stretch assignments and demonstrate your capabilities
  • Volunteer your time to a cause important to you 
  • Propose a solution to a business problem and showcase your potential
  • Know your values and be prepared to be challenged because of them
Was my college degree worth it? Absolutely, it gave me the foundational knowledge I needed and the ability to adapt how I think and learn relative to the situation. Was my college degree enough? Of course not, but my mentors made up for where I lacked in an education. When someone seeks me out for advice, I am humbled as I think about my mentors who gave me their pearls of wisdom, which I am now passing on. 

How has mentoring helped you? Are you mentoring others? Share your pearls of wisdom and enlighten someone else along their journey.

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