Parents: Please let your child read this article!
Boys and Girls, I have news for you; your life and a career is not about going through the motions and attending class for 18 years. Making it to 21 years old does not guarantee you a living.
It might not seem fair, and I am sure you are good person, funny, and really wanting to be a successful astronaut, rock star, or fireman…but you are not a puppy dog or a fluffy kitten and it’s just a little more complicated than what you have probably learned up to this point. Maybe it is the structure of education, where you are passed along, and a path is preordained. Maybe, this is just my chance to complain. Let’s leave that for another day.
What caused this midsummer rant was the influx of job inquiries by the newly minted graduates of the Universities and schools around the globe. I continue to question what these schools are teaching for the exorbitant tuitions charged and more importantly, the curriculum that is supposedly designed to produce a graduate with actual value in the business world. Maybe, it’s the parents fault for not guiding their children better …just a thought.
In my opinion, a four-year degree should take a student through a journey, starting at examining the end result or “prize” if you will, and then working backward, to learn what is required to accomplish the goal. The basics must be learned. It should be sprinkled with help including ethics, finance, and Basic English (I recently heard that teaching cursive writing is being abounded in schools due to technology. If this doesn’t make you’re eyebrows raise, nothing will). You might say I am being old-fashioned and not with the new technology. All I can do is relate my experiences and let you be the judge.
A 19-year-old Russian boy came to me here in Dubai and said in broken English, “I hear you are in finance, and Warren Buffet is my hero, I want to be like him …can you help me find a job?” Putting on my mentoring cap, I asked, “Have you done anything in finance or trading in Russia?” “No,” he replied. Hoping to find something that I could build on, I then asked, “Have you gone to university or held any internships?” “No” …again. “But I love this man and how he has become so successful so I want to too,” he added in hard-to-understand English. “I must find job in two weeks as I am here on tourist visa, so I do anything,” he qualified. Obviously this was no better than a drive-by shooting.
I was contacted by an advertising firm with an extremely aggressive and polished representative. He was knowledgeable and friendly, but we had already hit our advertising budget for the year. I told him what I really needed was a good and experienced consultant, and since he called on similar private equity firms as us, I thought he would know someone. I told him that we would relocate the right person here, and if he came across anyone to refer them. Within 10 minutes, he said he had the ideal person, who was desperate to find a position, especially overseas, and emailed her resume to me. Her C.V showed she had worked in perfect roles that I look for, and I decided to send a hello email. One item that did bother me was that no position she held was longer than a year and there were quite a few firms. That’s a warning flag.
I sent the woman a hello letter on Thursday and by Monday noon, there was no reply. That’s warning number two.
I called her and she said she couldn’t talk and would call me back. Three hours later, she called. The first thing she asked, in the heaviest British “Essex accent” (for those who know what I am saying, you will chuckle), “’Ello Skipper, may you please tell me what the base salary is, luv?”
One interesting point is that the financial news channels recently reported the largest surge in job openings in more than a decade. Thousands of jobs are being recruited at every level. With unemployment at such high levels there has to be something wrong, right? Maybe it’s because the people unemployed …aren’t employable!
All I ever wanted to do was be a commodity trader on the trading floor. The thrill, excitement and energy was such a draw. The huge amounts of money changing hands, was a rush to me. Did I need to learn economics, finance and basic business? Probably.
The best place to start (thought my father) was at the bottom. I just wanted to be around it on my college break, in any way I could, and coming from Chicago where the main trading floor was …that was my opportunity. The problem was that every kid wanted the same–to be a Runner–during the summer. You had to even have connections to just get to the floor for an hour as a visitor. Runners are kids that literally run the orders from the desk to the traders in “The Pit”.
There were no openings, so what to do? I made one!
I went to the biggest and most respectful firm at the time, Merrill Lynch, and approached the desk manager. I said, “Excuse me sir, I want to learn the business and I’d like to be a Runner. I’ll do anything you want!” He replied, “I appreciate that but we have no openings.” “I’ll work for nothing,” I told him. Standing next to him was a short stocky man who leaned over to me and said, “You will work for nothing?” I acknowledged enthusiastically and I was hired. Two days later someone was fired and I took the paying slot. The man turned out to be the manager for the whole country.
Now here is where the story takes on meaning.
Twenty years later I was on a phone interview to manage a FOREX operation. It involved a great salary and perks with international experience. I was asked if I knew this man, by name. I thought back, ”Ya, that was that guy at Merril Lynch. Isn’t he a short fat guy?” I asked. A new voice joined the conversation, “How tall are you M%$@!*ker?” Sure enough, it was HIM. He remembered me twenty years later and yes, I got the job.
Moral of the story and job guidelines
- Learn your trade. Become the best in what you want to be.Become an expert and not just the minimum expectations.
- Never discuss salary until the absolute end. Doing so shows many things, and none of them are what an employer wants to think or hear.
- Don’t worry, especially in your 20s and 30s, about status or compensation. Pay your dues! There will be plenty of time to earn and spend later on.
- Respond immediately to an employer calling you back. It won’t show over-zealousness, it will show your true desire to secure the position. Anything less shows you don’t really care.
- Develop a game plan for what you want, working backwards. Know what it takes to become what you want and then develop a game plan from there. No one goes from A to Z without hitting the alphabet in between.
- Never lie on your C.V., it will catch up to you and the end result will not be good.
- Be patient but vigilant. Looking for a job is a full-time job in itself.
To be employed, you must bring value. Do right in the beginning and like me, you will be rewarded…ok, even if it takes 20 years!