The power (and the fear) of self determination
or… are we stuck in High School?
I had two brushes with higher education this week.
The first was at a speech I gave in New York. There were several Harvard Business School students there, invited because of their interest in marketing and exceptional promise (that’s what I was told… I think they came because they had heard that Maury Rubin would make a great lunch!).
Anyway, they asked for my advice in finding marketing jobs. When I shared my views (go to a small company, work for the CEO, get a job where you actually get to make mistakes and do something) one woman professed to agree with me, but then explained, “But those companies don’t interview on campus.”
Those companies don’t interview on campus. Hmmm. She has just spent $100,000 in cash and another $150,000 in opportunity cost to get an MBA, but…
The second occurred today at Yale. As I drove through the amazingly beautiful campus, I passed the center for Asian Studies. It reminded me of my days as an undergrad (at a lesser school, natch), browsing through the catalog, realizing I could learn whatever I wanted. That not only could I take classes but I could start a business, organize a protest movement, live in a garret off campus, whatever. It was a tremendous gift, this ability to choose.
Yet most of my classmates refused to choose. Instead, they treated college like an extension of high school. They took the most mainstream courses, did the minimum amount they needed to get an A, tried not to get into “trouble” with the professor or face the uncertainty of the unknowable. They were the ones who spent six hours a day in the library, reading their textbooks.
The best part of college is that you could become whatever you wanted to become, but most people just do what they think they must.
Is this a metaphor? Sure. But it’s a worthwhile one. You have more freedom at work than you think (hey, you’re reading this on company time!) but most people do nothing with that freedom but try to get an A.
Do you work with people who are still in high school? Job seekers only willing to interview with the folks who come on campus? Executives who are trying to make their boss happy above all else? It’s pretty clear that the thing that’s wrong with this system is high school, not the rest of the world.
Cut class. Take a seminar on french literature. Interview off campus. Safe is risky.