And what you can do about it.
The Last Castrato.
For centuries in Europe, cathedral choirs refused to accept women. They got their soprano voices another way: castrating talented male singers before they reached puberty. I know… it’s a pretty heavy decision for 10-year-old to make.
But indulge me and put yourself in the place of Alessandro Moreschi, the last castrato. His career choice was based on certain assumptions about the world, music, and churches. Yet, a few short years after he went under the blade, the practice of castration was banned.
Eventually, the Pope had all castrato singers replaced. And so, until retirement, he tried to adapt as a solo artist. When he died in 1922, he was the final relic of a bygone era. I believe Gen Y is a bit like the last castrato – trained for a world that will soon cease to exist.
Breaking the Beehive Mentality.
Schools don’t just give us work, they teach us how to work. We advance through levels of seniority by completing assignments, impressing superiors, and eventually finish as the big guy on top. Just like a job… used to be.
Today nobody relies on a single firm for a lifetime of employment and comfortable retirement. People change jobs every 2 years, companies every 3, and industries every 4. Between entering college and turning 40, most of you will have gone through 11 jobs.
My business school at Boston University was literally designed to mimic a beehive. As we buzzed through assignments with slow and steady progress, few realized that the ways we were learning to work were hopelessly irrelevant.
We no longer climb a single corporate ladder; we incessantly jump from one to another. In this important way, school emphasizes a way of working that does not reflect the working world. In fact, our education focuses on the exact skills that are becoming increasingly irrelevant.
Finding Your Roadmap.
The forward momentum provided by schools vanishes at graduation. Your employers will not have a long-term plan for you; you need your own roadmap for success. How do you know what the right next step is?
Without a vision for your career and a motivating sense of personal purpose, it is nearly impossible to navigate the rapidly shifting workplace. Too many people succeed only when the assignment is provided to them, but fail miserably at creating their own assignments.
What are you best at? What are your innate skills and aptitudes? How can you express them in a way that provides value to today’s world? Put your focus here, on reality, and you will continually find new ways to apply yourself in different jobs and industries.
Yoga teaches that the true guru is the one inside of you. Let your own soul be your personal roadmap for the world. You will grow in your abilities and gain a diversity of experiences that will make you invaluable wherever you go.
Tapping Your Creative Juices.
I know too many talented engineers that spent time meticulously tutoring overseas partners, only to find out that they trained their own replacements. Put your ego aside. You may have skills, but they can be purchased cheaper elsewhere.
Education today is a left-hemisphere brain activity. It teaches us skills, works in a linear fashion, and let us deduce based on known patterns. Great for rote memorization and repetitive activities, but completely inept at forming new ideas.
Success outside of the beehive comes from your own creativity and inspiration. Google’s algorithm, Nike’s brand, and Craig’s list – these assets come from the mind of an innovator. They cannot be produced on assembly lines, or be easily replicated by competitors.
In the coming business era, the exact things that hurt you in school will make you successful. Whether it’s your passion for literature, music, or my favorite, yoga, activities that break you out of deduction mode and let you actually experience the world will be crucial.
The Bottom Line.
You can either think about life or you can live. By tapping both left and right brain hemispheres, you fully experience life and intuitively arrive at new ideas. This creativity is the path to success for our generation. It has never been easier to put a new idea into motion.
Yet we have been discouraged from doing so at every step. We are trained to mitigate weaknesses instead of building on strengths. This creates mediocrity, not excellence. We are taught that skills trump creativity. This creates replaceable employees, not visionaries.
Most career centers focus on being recruited, leaving would-be entrepreneurs with few resources. But if you truly want to be an innovator, turn to your number one product first: yourself. Break out of the beehive mentality, learn who you are, create a personal roadmap, and learn to embrace your own creativity.
Edward - Entry Level Dilemma says
Similar to the points of other commenters, I think college education is what you make of it. If you just coast along for the ride of a pre-determined curriculum, yes, you are getting an education that won’t adequately prepare you for the realities of the modern workplace/ economy. However, if you are pro-active in trying new things, both inside your major and without, academically and recreationally, you will be much more prepared for the real world. I would say that most of my regrets about my college experience revolve around things I had the opportunity to do, but didn’t.
Personally, I am much more worried about how the world economy is going to affect Gen Y. It’s beginning to look like the economy is going to languish for a few more years at at time that Gen Y’ers are at that “entry-level” stage of their careers. When the economy recovers, there are going to be 30-somethings with 10 years of entry level experience that will be competing for jobs with those fresh out of college, and HR departments, being the bastion of traditional thinking on careers, will pick the recent grads over our “lost” generation.
According to Outliers, success is more than hard work and determination, but a function of lucky breaks and lucky timing. We are coming of age during some bad timing. Certain key aspects of the untemplater lifestyle will probably be necessary to keeping from sinking into oblivion and not getting completely passed by.
This is very true, Generation Y, has a work ethic that used to work. Our sense of entitlement comes from what we expect of the companies, that they used to guarantee, now those things are luxuries. It also comes from our lives outside of work, more of us, are keeping ourselves with things that will eventually advance our careers, and if our current companies don’t see that, then to us it is a screw them mentality. http://confusedyetamused.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/why-generation-y/
Jonny | thelifething.com says
A great first article. Creativity, as you say, and problem solving, people skills, leadership, basic financial intelligence are all sorely missing from the education system creating a graduate that are all set for success in the industrial age even though now we are very much in the information age and the rules have drastically changed.
Financial Samurai says
Is the BU MBA program different from Harvard and MIT’s?
Adventure-Some Matthew says
I agree with the over-all points of this article: traditional education doesn’t teach us everything that we need. However, knowing about this shortage, we can self-educate in a way to fill in those gaps.
Currently, I’m a college student. Aware that my education won’t adequately prepare me for the “real world”, I am actively pursuing my education outside of the classroom: I attend lectures, sit in on classes that pertain to neither my major nor minor, read books about business and creativity, and meet as many people as I can. Overall, I feel that I have a well-rounded education that will help me in today’s business environment. However, I couldn’t feel that way just through classes that the university requires I take.
I really enjoyed this piece. Interesting take on the disconnect between education and careers. Doesn’t really give much indicated how to go about breaking free from the beehive, but I like your style and your approach.
Noel Hurtley says
I really enjoyed your debut article Ravi, perhaps you should write about yoga or meditation next? I think a lot of readers would be interested.
I found this to be a very interesting approach to assessing the situation of Generation Y. As a member of this particular demographic, I found a lot in this article that I did agree with (despite the underlying sense of idealism). As a graduate of BU, like the author himself, my education in International Relations and Journalism taught me a lot of ways to function in a methodical system that doesn’t really take into account the variables that exist today. As a writer, I found this quite applicable to my training as a journalist in school–it was very “by the book.” We learned the formula of how to write, what particular voice to use, the structure of writing an article, and AP guidelines that were absolutely required. I learned how to write to sell and how to write to get a job, but I didn’t really learn how to write in a way that would make me stand out from other writers in the same publication. The lack of emphasis on creativity and innovation was what disillusioned me.
While the article may come off as an idealistic approach that many realists/pessimists might find unhelpful, there is a lot of good advice to take from it if you remove any sort of label. We can’t expect ourselves to know the outcome of everything, and if we believe that we can then we’re simply selling ourselves short. Not all of us will end up as innovators, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to stand out. Who knows, maybe we may just surprise ourselves.
I like this! Funny that your school was actually designed to mimic a beehive.