How do prepare for a career at 22?

imagesI went to a dinner party this past week for 20 people that I was invited to from my friend who sits on the board of the New School.  The New School is a liberal arts school that sits in downtown NYC where 5000 undergraduates attend and 5000 others take graduate classes.  They only house the freshman for one year and then they are on their own.  So not only are you taking a variety of creative classes that go towards 135 different degrees you are getting a lot of your education just by living in NYC.

I have always been intrigued with the New School.  There are 5 schools that are each creative and unique that sit under the umbrella of the New School; Parsons, Eugene Lang of Liberal Arts, College of Performing Arts, The New School for Social Research and Adult Bachelor’s, Creative Writing, Media Studies, Language and Milano.

The conversation this evening was about how do we prepare the next generation of graduates for their career.  These days the kids on campus are way ahead of the curve when it comes to knowing about the variety of opportunities out there.  There are almost too many choices.  The college placement office that I showed up in before graduating had me sign up for the variety of interviews with companies that showed up on campus.  The idea is that I would have a job upon graduation and I did.  Now the only ones that show up range from Goldman Sachs to Verizon but they are not from Facebook, Foursquare or the slew of start-ups that kids are interested in.  The world has changed.

There are start-ups like Planted that are helping kids who graduate find the right job with the right culture fit and opportunity.  There are plenty of companies who connect with kids on campuses that they refer to as college ambassadors that push their products or get kids on their platforms.  Social media is connecting directly to these kids and most colleges aren’t even aware of it.  I happened to speak at Education Uncubed this week and spoke about this topic.  More than a few heads were nodding in the audience.

Right now the importance of writing code is high on the list but ten years from now it might be just standard and there is something else that becomes the winning ticket.  This generation and the ones to follow will live to be 100 years.  That is a long time to think about a career.  Our work lives and our personal lives are blurred because of technology.  Both women and men are thinking about how do I work somewhere that will respect my desire for balance between family and a personal life.  These thoughts all come into play when kids set out for their first job.

What are the skills to teach?  Communication should be high up there.  Perhaps the jobs of today did not exist 5 years ago such as a customer acquisition specialist or a back and front end product person but regardless they all have to speak to each other and be able to communicate, not only through Slack but in person.  This generation and perhaps many in the future want careers that make them happy and that is anything from a chocolate maker to a web designer.  Shouldn’t they be able to walk out of school understanding how to live on their income?  How about how to cook, sew on a button, do laundry and bake a chicken?  Maybe they should have been taught that at home but these are certainly life skills.

The debt right now on student loans is overwhelming.  Something will break.  Some kids might choose not to go to college but to go a trade school or just start out on their own entrepreneurial path by starting a company.  At the end of the day, I do still believe that a liberal arts education (by the way that could happen in high school too) teaches the skills of reading and writing and allows one to educate themselves on a breadth of topics are important food for the brain.  That knowledge will carry one forward into whatever endeavor they pursue.  More than likely it will be several endeavors over the course of this generations life and that is an exciting opportunity to think about.