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September 6, 2010
By Dr. Roslyn Kunin
BC Business Columnist
VANCOUVER, BC, Sept. 6, 2010/ Troy Media/ – September is a time of beginnings. The slow and lazy days of summer are now behind us and we are about to start a fresh new year of activity. This is especially true if we are beginning an educational program in a university or college.
Some of us may treat education as a consumer good, that is, it something you enjoy now. If you see an education strictly as something you are doing because it expands your mind or because school is more fun than working, then that is your choice. Enjoy!
Others of us, however, treat education as an investment, something we put resources such as time, money and effort into now so that we can reap a return later. In fact, most of us see education as an investment that will provide better opportunities, more income and a brighter future later. In most, but not all, cases they are right.
Follow the rule
But how do you insure that you will get the best possible return on your educational investment? Follow the often quoted rule for success: begin with the end in mind. Imagine yourself graduated and on the job market. What will the world look like and what will you be able to contribute to it?
First, some good news: It is unlikely, over the next few years, that we will have a major global economic disaster. It is far more likely that present trends of steady, positive economic growth will continue. The growth will be most noticeable in the newly-developed countries like China, Brazil and India and slower in more established economies like Europe and the United States. Resource rich, well-managed and stable Canada will be somewhere in between.
While anyone with enough determination, the right skills, and, especially, an entrepreneurial attitude can make a living just about anywhere, you will improve your odds if you are willing and able to re-locate to a more vibrant area. Keep your options open. Make friends with students (and faculty) from different places. Learn from them. You might even consider using one of your electives to pick up another language. This will definitely give you a leg up in an increasingly global economy.
Besides deciding where to work, ask yourself a very important question: What good or service will I be able to provide that someone will be willing and able to pay for? Don’t assume that because your university or college is offering your course there must be jobs awaiting you after graduation. Educational institutions make their money by putting bums in seats, not by guaranteeing jobs.
And don’t decide on a course based on your interests or aptitudes. While I really enjoy reading novels and I do it very well, I have not yet found anyone who will pay me to do it.
Check websites, potential employers and talk with family and friends to get their perspectives on the kind of skills and abilities you should be amassing now for your future success. One proviso: make sure that those skills and abilities will actually pay. It is amazing what people would like to have when it is pro bono, that is if you do it for free.
Be especially careful if the government is the only or the major employer in an occupation you are looking at. Most governments are likely to be pretty strapped for cash for the foreseeable future.
Not your parents’ world
Finally, this is not your parents’ world anymore. It is unlikely that you will get a permanent position with the government or a large corporation, especially when you first enter the work force. It is even less likely that you will be in only one job throughout your working life.
However, such large organizations will still need your hopefully-well-chosen skills and will gladly offer you consulting and contract work.
And that is not a bad thing. If you are prepared for this mode of work and have even set up your own company to do so, this could lead to a permanent job. You may even discover that you are doing so well and having so much fun on your own that you don’t want to tie yourself to one organization. Instead, you will get the best return on your education by working on your own.
Channels: The Calgary Beacon, Sept. 7, the National Post, Sept. 16, the Victoria Star, Sept. 22, 2010, the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Mar. 10, 2011