For the last twenty years I’ve followed two dreams. My dream of continuing to help students find their potential at college and above and also my dream of owning small businesses. I’ve been one of the lucky ones that has been able to do both of those. It wasn’t easy by any means but when looking back in reflection, I can easily say I wouldn’t take another path. I started contemplating how the next step in a student’s career is a lot like starting a business. It came to me when I hit my twenty year mark, yesterday of working in higher education. I’m big on reflective learning. Reflective learning is where you look back on a chunk of time or a situation and you get data and insight that helps you moving forward. A lot of people get stuck on the “reflective regret” which is where you look back and all you want to do is change that specific moment in time. Don’t get me wrong, we all have a particular situation like that. But the danger for most, is that the situation they reflect on will consume them and they will miss everything else. I’ll digress back to the topic now, or we could get stuck on this topic for the whole post.
When you look at starting a business, the first thing is the idea. How it fits into the workplace and what need it fulfills. You start coming up with a prototype and doing due diligence on product viability. Everyone tells you that it sounds like a great idea so you embark on it. You start working feverishly on it, constant tweaks and late nights, crawling your way to the top of the competition. At some point, you may need capital and you start to look for venture funding. Venture capitalists (VC) are people that invest time and money into you and your idea to help make it even bigger and better than it was. They own a part of your business now, so you can’t let them down or waste their money. If all goes well, your product/business goes well, you make enough money so that you and your investors are happy and you are proud that you were able to grow something into the giant that it is now. A lot of young students that are thinking about college or trade school right now, may have that entrepreneurial itch and may choose to go that route right out of the gate. About 10% of them will be successful at that.
So how is college like a start-up business?
The next steps that you take for determining college and beyond will mirror almost identically the same growing pains that a budding entrepreneur feels when starting a business. So let’s break down the steps as it relates to you from above…
As always… Dream It, Believe It, Do It and Win It!
In the podcast and every day I talk to students and parents about the importance of a major. But I want to backtrack just a little. It’s not so much the importance of the major as it is the importance of what you want to do in life. A lot of times students will pick majors because it “sound interesting” or they have a friend that it is majoring in it right now. These aren’t the ways to determine what the right major is for you. Am I saying that what you pick is going to be perfect? Not at all. But it allows you to aim at something right out of the gate. A recent Gallup Poll stated that 36% of people that finished a college degree, switched their major at least once. I was one of those people. I started college thinking that engineering was the right path for me and quickly (one semester in) realized that I had no business in that major and that I was better suited for business and education. It happens, don’t beat yourself up if you make a mid air course correction on what you’re going to school for.
A lot of articles will make this about right or left politics or liberal arts versus trade school. In my opinion none of those really matter. At the end of the day it’s all about what is right for you and your future. One of the main beefs that I have with higher education as a whole, is the disastrous student loan crisis. Although many tout that “college is the place to find yourself and what you want to do”, going blindly down that path could end you up in college for six or more years and you may or may not even graduate with a degree. The equals a ton of student loan debt if you weren’t proactive on the front end with scholarship. At our core, we all have ideas of what we want to do.
A formula that I came up with a long time ago for my students (and I’m going to be putting a free worksheet together on it) is how to pick a major that is pretty close to what you want to do long term. The first step is to take out a piece of paper, write down what you’re good at. Use your imagination and ask people around you. The next step on a fresh piece of paper is to write down what you like to do. This will have some variation from your first list. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you want to pursue that long term. Now look at those two papers and see where there is overlap. The next step is to take the items that overlap and make a list of what jobs are available in the workforce for them. Now circle which one’s you could see yourself doing. The next step is research. Do a little research on these jobs and see what type of education and major you need to pursue to get there. These simple yet time intensive steps will help you develop a major that is more than likely going to be right for you.
By being intentional with your search, you will set yourself up to hit the ground running at college. If you get into it and realize that you don’t have the commitment or competencies for it, than maybe picking another major isn’t a bad idea. Just remember, the longer you are in school the more potential for that scary student loan debt to keep multiplying. Being intentional with your decisions will pay the greatest dividends.
As always… Dream It, Believe It, Do It and Win It!
Dustin Hall has been working in higher education for over 20 years. He's passionate about students, technology and entrepreneurship. Over the past two decades, he has owned several companies and worked at a number of private and public universities. At those universities he has held the titles of; Communications Coordinator, Asst. Dean of Residential and Campus Life, Director of Residence Life, Regional Admissions Officer, Director of Admissions and Adjunct Faculty. He's a big dreamer and doer and lives by his motto of "Dream It, Believe It, Do It and Win It!"