What’s Missing?

Who You Are  –  II

There are between 30 and 40 million Americans with a learning history that looks something like one of those below.  You may be one of them.

University -> Major 1 -> Major 2 -> Major 3: No degree
University 1 -> Major 1 -> University 2 -> Major 2 -> University 3: No degree
Community college -> University -> Start over -> Out of money:  No degree

Some in the blogosphere are debating whether earning a degree is worth it.

 Buzz TodaySource:   Your Future is Calling.  The number of jobs available is directly related to a person’s level of education. The number of jobs available if you have a bachelor’s degree has grown 82 percent since 1988. The number of jobs available if you have an associate’s degree has grown 42 percent, while the number of jobs available to those with only a high school degree actually declined by 14 percent.

Although having a degree does not guarantee you’ll enjoy a well-paying career, this information highlights that job growth occurred only in those jobs requiring degrees. The data are true through good times and bad—recessions included.

On this issue the data is very clear.  On average, those with a degree make more money, were better at retaining their jobs in the last severe economic downturn and degree holders have about one half the unemployment rate as those without a degree.

But even these facts are not the heart of the issue if you are one of the 30 – 40 million cited above.  For you the issue is much more personal.  This is about you.

At some point in their lives, every one of these 30 – 40 million individuals had decided that a degree was something they wanted in their future.  The question is not so much about whether a degree is “worth it”.  The important question for you is “what went wrong on the way to that degree?”

There are many reasons individuals are not able to reach their personal degree goal.  Simply put, life gets in the way.  I talk about these issues in the chapter “You Are Not Alone” in my book Your Future is Calling.  What is striking is how common the reasons are that people stopped out on their path to their degree.

One of the conclusions we might draw from the university -> major sequence, and the tens of millions of stop outs, is that there could be something else going on here.  Missing from this conversation is what I think are some of the most important pieces in this conversation.  Missing are “who you are” and careers.

My suggestion is that the decisions of university and major are means to an end.  The outcome you are trying create is the match between “who you are” and career.  It is this match in the future that will provide the satisfaction of a fulfilled life.

More on these two factors in future posts on this blog.