Ilona Dougherty, founder of Apathy is Boring and recent recipient of Canada’s Top 100 Women in 2015 has done some very interesting research around the shift in the number of students attending university. In her recent article, she found that ‘the number of students enrolled full-time in university has more than doubled since 1980, even though there are 3 per cent fewer Canadians between the ages of 18 and 24, according to Statistics Canada. But despite being the most educated generation of all time, they face poor job prospects when they graduate.’ And so I start to wonder why.
the number of students enrolled full-time in university has more than doubled since 1980
Having graduated not too long ago myself, I found that I graduated nearly blind into the workplace. My eyes were on the prize, and I was going to be consultant with one of Canada’s Big-Four. That was the dream. I had my suit picked, my extracurricular activities done, I was VP of one of the largest Student Unions in the country, became Class Ambassador for that same school, and couldn’t even get an interview with my ‘dream company’. Naturally I wondered if the five years I had spent in university were a waste of time. I knew what I wanted to do (be a consultant), and I knew what it was going to take (grades, volunteering, work experience and extracurricular activity).
A big thanks to Emerson Csorba for knocking on my door and sharing the idea of the company we’ve taken and built across the country, and for allowing these thoughts and conversations to happen. What I discovered is that as a student I was often asked two questions:
Now thinking back, I’ve been consulting for two years, and truthfully I still don’t quite understand what consulting means. Consulting hasn’t been the focus because of the work necessarily; it has been because of the lifestyle it has allowed me to live. Come to think if it, it was the entrepreneurial experience that had done it, and the consulting has simply been a part of the journey.
And so I often think back to my experiences and ask students not what they want to do when they graduate, but instead I ask what difference do you want to make? Where do you want to live? What experiences do you want to have?
What difference do you want to make?
Where do you want to live?
What experiences do you want to have?
These questions are very important, as they are precursors to the ‘what you want to do’ and ‘how we’re going to do it’. If a student can better understand themselves, and know what job they want to fill based on what life it will allow them to live, then I believe we can start to turn the tables on extremely poor tenure in the workplace, the talent gap in jobs that don’t require a university degree, and perhaps even reduce the amount of young adults living in their parents’ basement.