Richard Quinn | Aug 29, 2021
DEAR 18-YEAR-OLD: You may be better educated and more intelligent than me. You may have more potential. But for sure you don’t have more experience. I have 60 years on you, so—as hard as it may be—take my advice:
- There are no guarantees in life. You have to make of it what you will. Never give up.
- You will have obstacles placed before you. You will be treated unfairly. You will have to deal with less-than-honorable individuals. You will be slighted and overlooked at times. Get over it and move on.
- A college education gives you what you put into it. Obtaining a degree means nothing if you got that piece of paper simply by getting by.
- Once you’re hired for your first job, where you went to college is meaningless. It’s up to you to prove your value to your first and subsequent employers.
- Political rhetoric about inequality is irrelevant to you. There are as many opportunities today as there have ever been, perhaps more. If money is your goal, there’s no reason you can’t make it. But it will take drive, creativity, effort, dedication and perseverance. Look within, not without.
- If you seek a career that isn’t about money, but rather about things more important to you—service to others, the arts—that’s fine. Just know there’s a price to be paid. Don’t envy others or expect more financial reward than your choices can deliver.
- The system is always rigged by some people and for some people. No denying it, it’s harder for some folks to get ahead. That’s always been the case and always will be. Ignore it.
- Eschew seeking what you feel you’re entitled to, rather than what you earned. All you’re entitled to is stated in the Declaration of Independence.
- Take responsibility for your actions and choices. Keep a mirror handy.
- Be prudent with money. Always save first before you spend a single cent. Live within or below your means. Never pay credit-card interest. Avoid the accumulation of unnecessary stuff.
- Be aware. Pay attention to what’s happening in the world so you’re better prepared to separate fact from opinion.
- Plan ahead. Think long term. The future is not as far away as you may think.
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Number 4 is simply false.
Degrees from prestigous colleges make it easier to land highly selective jobs which, in turn, make is easier to jump ship to a better job in another company. For example, a IT person working at Microsoft, Google or Apple is much more marketable than his or her counterpart working at a less prestigous company.
For most jobs, it is very difficult to assess applicants’ job performance. Almost all of the applicants I screended during my career had glowing references and performance reviews. This shortcoming makes is much more likely that GPAs and college prestige will continue to affect selection decisions beyond their first jobs.
The first company I worked for required a college degree. They didn’t care what college it was from or even what the degree was in. You just had to have a college degree. This was a company that Warren Buffett invested in heavily at one time. They must have been doing something right.
Dick Quinn offers reasons for why preference shown to candidates with degrees from prestigious colleges is flawed. And Parkslope explains how the system nonetheless favors those graduates over others from less well known colleges. I suspect that this advantage diminishes over time, once the employee establishes a track record of performance by which he or she can be evaluated.
I have to disagree with your view on this. I interviewed and hired many people in my career at all levels from officers down. I never recall the college they went to or their GPA as being relevant. In fact, after a few years on the job and after changing jobs, it’s silly to even put the GPA on a resume. I agree references are questionable at best. It’s the interview that matters and if possible to get information on past jobs from contacts you might have. Even advanced degrees are questionable. Some people with impressive educations and degrees are best left in the academic world and not the real world of business and obtaining quantifiable results. This reminds me of teachers. Many districts reward teachers with higher pay for obtaining a masters, even giving raises as they progress and yet that degree may have little to do with their actual skill at teaching.
I agree that GPAs diminish rapidly in value and that Master’s degrees in education are mostly pointless.
I stand by my point that a degree from a top college will enhance a career far beyond the first job. For example, consider a law firm that only hires entry-level attorneys who graduated from a select number of law firms and also gives preference for advanced hires to attorneys at firms who have similar selection criteria for their entry-level attorneys. Clearly, law school prestige will play a large role in advanced job selection decisions even if decision-makers don’t consciously consider it.
While clearly necessary, the interview is a flawed method for selecting new employees. Extensive research across many jobs has shown that the interview has a predictive validity of .37. This reflects the fact that, despite beliefs to the contrary, managers vary greatly in their interview evaluations of the same applicants.
The validity of employment interviews: A comprehensive review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 79, 599-616.
There are obviously countless highly successful people who didn’t attend elite colleges. Nevertheless, 11 of the Fortune 100 CEOs have Ivy League degrees. Of course, it is impossible to know how many of those 11 would have become CEOs if they had graduated from lower-ranked colleges. There are countless other examples of fields where graduates of elite schools dominate the most prestigious jobs. The Supreme Court is one example and you will find a similar dominance of elite schools among the faculty in the top US hospitals.
#3 is more important than ever these days. With grade inflation running rampant and institutions of higher education putting more emphasis on the “college experience” rather than academics, it’s up to students to put in the work to make sure they get the most learning they can while they’re in school!
I couldn’t agree more. And to some extent that’s true in high school as well and as a result it seems many students are not well prepared for college. The high school where I graduated in 1961 and received a solid basic education now has a math proficiency of 2% for seniors despite spending as much per child as top performing districts.
The decline of public education has been happening since I went to school back in the ’80’s. As a senior in high school, I was allowed to take 1 period of “late arrival” and 2 periods of “early dismissal”. I’d completed all of my basic graduation requirements so there wasn’t any reason for me to be in a classroom. It would have been nice if someone had mentioned I could take courses at the local Community College in order to continue with my education…
Oh Richard, you knew I had to object. Your overgeneralization is faulty in many ways, but to point out 4:1. Your blanket washing over all injustices in the workplace as “it happens” negates degree. Would you tell a woman who is told by her boss to sleep with him or she’s fired or a person of color who is left a death threat at his desk (and these have happened) it’s the same as someone not getting full overtime once? 2. You pretend 18 year-olds all start the race at the same line, when study after study shows gender, race, family wealth, etc. make for an unequal start. You say it’s irrelevant, or that we didn’t profit, but the fact is when you and I were job searching we walked into interviews ahead of women and people of color by virtue of demographics even if we were less qualified. Why shouldn’t people complain and try to make the system better for the good of all? 3. If you are talking theory, a wise man once said whole systems shouldn’t be changed for “light and transient causes,” but when those abuses happen over and over again, it is not just the people’s right, but their DUTY to change things. That man was Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence and it is the raison d’etre of this country. Your “suck it up” view was England’s response. 4. Are you willing to abide by your own advice? If your investments go sour because of mismanagement or criminal activity by people you hired, will you shrug it off and say “Hey, these things have happened for years. I should just get over it and try harder!”? Be well, my friend.
I would hope it obvious I was not talking about accepting illegal or criminal activities nor was I making a call to ignore injustice. The message is to the individual not to give up in the face of adversity, not to fall victim to being a victim, not to blame others for ones faults or poor life decisions.
I am confident my list reflects the realities of life. If individuals do not get over the issues, they will be trapped.
What I hear you saying Jim is more excuses. Yes, lousy, unfair things happen. Despite hundreds if not thousands of federal and state laws against all kinds of discrimination and unfair practices, they still occur and always will. The goal for the individual is to overcome them, to find a way around if necessary. Not to give up.
When I graduated high school I walked the streets for five months trying to find a job, nobody would hire me because I wasn’t eighteen. When I did find one it was the lowest paying job out of 15,000. Years and a few promotions later later I began looking for a new job and went on an interview. I didn’t get it because my current manager called the new company and told them not to hire me. Three times in my career I was promised a new position only to find it given to other less qualified individuals (who eventually were moved out of the job) via friendships. I ended up doing most of the work of one of those people. Once my office was taken away and I was given a desk outside the managers office and people thought I was the secretary. Stuff happens and will always happen.
Individual attitude matters greatly including for minorities and women. Like it or not, fair or not, they must learn to deal with and overcome the unique obstacles they may face. And there are many examples of such accomplishment.
There is a wide gap between how things should be and how they are. Until that gap is eliminated, if ever, one must learn to deal with the reality or continue to wish for better, complain and short-change themselves.
Yes, sometimes you just have to get over it and try harder. And sometimes you need to do that more than once.
Well thank goodness you are saying not to condone or ignore illegal activities. That, of course, includes gender, race, and sexuality discrimination, so in essence you are supporting people speaking up! In fact, I suppose my whole point is that the choice to complain/point out victimizing vs. work hard is a false one. America’s Founding Fathers did both, people like MLK did both. I really admire the younger generation of workers as I see them doing both. They do work hard even as job security is more volatile than during our time (and we never had a pandemic). Simultaneously, they are quick to point out injustices, especially systematic ones that have hurt individuals and our economy/society as a whole by having less qualified people get positions due to their privileged status. Speaking out is a win-win on a micro and macro level. If the system can’t take self-examination, it’s got something to hide. Be well.
And – Get off my lawn kid!
Just kidding; good one. 🙂
It is INCREDIBLY easy for a straight white male baby boomer to write “political rhetoric about inequality is irrelevant to you”. Jesus. Be better.
Classic case of shooting the messenger. The underlying message doesn’t lack merit because the messenger doesn’t suit your preferred profile. I say this as a BIPOC immigrant.
to be clear, I have a problem with both the message and the messenger.
Succinct and wise counsel for all of us. I realize this sounds naive, but it would be more constructive to read and hear more discussion and arguments about ideas and less criticism of individuals or groups who hold those ideas.
What others have accumulated, accomplished is not relevant to an 18-year old, what matters is how they approach life and strive to reach their goals and not worry about anyone else. Inequality is a very general term which can be applied at any level. What is most important is assuring that there are no artificial or intentional obstacles preventing anyone from doing better or achieving their maximum potential. Inequality is defined today as not tolerating multimillionaires and billionaires and yet the net value they have creating for all is immense, but we never hear much about that.
I prefer #5 without the first and third sentences. By themselves, the second, fourth, and fifth sentences emphasize the presence of many opportunities and the characteristics that are needed for success without interjecting your thoughts about inequality. While many young folks are concerned about inequality, I don’t think this plays a meaningful role in their career-focused mindsets and behaviors.
You’ve read the letter of the law, but missed the spirit of it. What is the counter to this advice? Don’t put in the work because the world is set against you? Sit around and sulk in victimhood? Are there not more opportunities today than in all of American history for people of color? (Of course there is and we all know that). “If money is your goal, there’s no reason you can’t make it. But it will take drive, creativity, effort, dedication and perseverance…” I would suggest this is a universal truth despite color or gender. You should read Hillbilly Elegy, or White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. Poor whites have just a difficult path to upward mobility than an inner-city minority. They’re both plagued with drugs, abuse, single parent household and all the difficulties that entails, poor schools, etc…
The two counters are 1) Quinn is in no position to be speaking on this and 2) young people should not ignore political rhetoric on inequality but should actively engage in political solutions that reduce it.
The solution to inequality- something that has been around since time began- is not to pull down the most successful but to raise up the lower levels to close the gap and I submit what I have talked about are some of the best ways to do that. To grab every possible opportunity and make the most of it. The wealth of the Bezos, Musks etc have not taken from anyone or prevented their growth, quite the contrary in my view creating millions of jobs, new wealth and entire new industries benefiting all. Only in the world of political envy and scapegoating is this a bad thing.
haha your position is that Jeff Bezos’ wealth “has not taken from anyone”??? Many of his warehouse employees are forced to pee in bottles, man. I’m all for disagreement, but make better arguments.
is this supposed to be a refutation of Richard’s point? If so, it’s “incredibly” weak.
I am merely pointing out that white male boomers, who have been the chief beneficiaries of America’s rising inequality, should not be lecturing others about disregarding it.
What do you mean beneficiaries? How have I and others like me benefited from inequality whatever that means. If you mean benefited from a rising stock market as has Bezos and company, that’s true I have and so could virtually ANYONE.
Many of us spent last summer learning about systemic racism and its effect on the wealth gap. Looks like you have some reading to do.
So instead of working you spent the summer “learning about systemic racism”… LOL. You’re on a fast track to nowhere.
Accurate observations from life’s lessons only gained by experience and age.
Excellent, Richard Quinn! Thank you!
This should be given out with every High School diploma and distributed with every college application.
Nailed it…facts don’t have feelings.