Mark Herschberg, Author of The Career Toolkit
Mark is the author of The Career Toolkit: Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You. The book aims to help individuals gain skills they need to step up their careers. Educated at MIT, Mark has spent his career launching and fixing new ventures at startups, Fortune 500s, and academia. He’s developed new software languages, online marketplaces, new authentication systems, and tracked criminals and terrorists on the dark web.
Mark—with the data he gathered from his own research—helped create the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program, MIT’s “Career Success Accelerator.” He has taught there for 20 years and also serves on the boards of two nonprofits: Techie Youth and Plant a Million Corals.
Questions Answered Today:
Where do we start with career planning?
Mark believes that a career plan should be very much the same as planning for a project. You don’t say, “MAYBE if I work hard, I’ll get it done.” Instead, you come up with a systemized plan to make sure that your project succeeds. You:
- Make timelines
- Create milestones
- Check in regularly
- Are we falling behind?
- What do we do to make our plan work?
Here’s the thing—you must be proactive in making these plans. You don’t hope that you get lucky and manage to get in. You work to make it happen.
Suppose that your student wants to be a lawyer. The first thing you need to do is to make sure that your student understands that a lawyer they see on Law and Order may be different from a real-life lawyer. Most TV scenes would show a dramatic and exciting courtroom showdown. In reality, here’s what a lawyer’s daily life looks like:
- Most lawyers never set foot in a courtroom.
- They do corporate work.
- They work on contracts.
- They work in an office by themselves, redlining Microsoft documents.
Brad adds how a lawyer’s career is very broad, and there are many possibilities waiting. A lawyer could be working in a courtroom, but they could also be in:
- Public sectors
- Private sectors
- Estate planning
Identifying what a job entails at the start is extremely important because this is the very foundation of your student’s career selection. Most professions are misrepresented because students don’t see enough of it. In the end, they end up choosing a career that’s far different from their expectations, which further leads to unhappiness.
How do I make sure my student gets a job that’s perfect for them?
“Look for the elements of jobs, not the job title. As they speak with people, look at these elements, and then start to construct a job based on the elements that sound interesting.”– Mark Herschberg
Students’ choices are often tied to the job titles in front of them without realizing that they can actually construct their own jobs. There are so many jobs that may not even be on the students’ (or the parents’) radar. Parents can lead students to a career path by doing the following:
Have your student talk to adults in different fields.
Students gain a clear view of what the job really is if they talk to someone who does that job. They can ask important questions such as:
- What does your typical week look like?
- How much time do you actually spend in meetings and doing paperwork?
- How much of your work is exciting and fun?
- How much is menial, monotonous or less exciting?
Start talking to your student about what kind of job excites them.
Ask non-complicated questions, so it’s easier for them to answer. Questions like the ones below should help elicit helpful responses from your student:
- Do you want to spend 20 hours per week in meetings? If the student says no, this means they should be looking into careers that don’t spend a lot of time sitting in conference rooms and participating in long meetings.
- Do you want to be on the road a lot? If the student wants this, then they should talk to professionals whose job requires traveling a lot, such as consultants, field engineers, and such.
If your student is unsure what they want to do (which is okay), start with what they don’t want to do.
Elimination could be a great approach too—just be sure to do your research well to make sure that what the student is picking does not have anything they won’t like. Look at this scenario:
A student doesn’t like STEM-related majors because she doesn’t like math. She ended up opting for Marketing.
However, marketing these days contains a lot of ad campaigns, which include running analytics and looking at return on investment. In fact, lots of marketing people these days work on doing formulas and spreadsheets.
All in all, starting with what the student doesn’t want could eventually lead to what they want. But again, if you’re using this approach, make sure to have in-depth knowledge of the possible options your student has.
Guide your student in carefully choosing their first job and in not making short-term choices.
In the past, there were some specific careers (startups, computer science, finance, etc.) that boomed for particular reasons. The reasons were unsure, but they may be tied to certain macroeconomic conditions.
Mark believes that joining the bandwagon in terms of career selection may not be the best idea. Most students, when choosing their first job, would say, “I just need a job. This job, this role, this focus, they’ll pay me, so I want to do it.” They do this without knowing that their first job sets their orientation. They may leave their first job, but their next job is highly likely to be related to their first job.
The student can hop from one job to another searching for that one thing they really want to do, but the longer they stay in a certain job, the harder it is to switch.
How can my student leverage their network as early as high school?
Students often face the problem of not having a network, but, in reality, there are simple strategies they can utilize to build a network.
Get this: Your network is not just people YOU know. Your network includes your network’s network. To make it simpler, your network includes:
- Your parents
- Your parents’ friends
- Your parents’ co-workers
- Your professors
- The other students
- The other students’ parents and their network
- The network of the groups mentioned above.
How do you utilize your network?
Reach out to them with a very specific inquiry, such as “I want to talk to a professional in this particular industry, do you know anyone?”
Mark adds that alumni relations could also be a powerful tool in leveraging the students’ network. Your student could visit their college’s alumni office and inquire about alumni who are in their field of interest. Some colleges would have databases to search for alumni.
In connecting to alumni, students could utilize LinkedIn, a platform used by many professionals. Sending an email may be a good way to connect too. The student could say something like, “Hi, we haven’t met, I’m an undergrad at your school. I know you graduated here years ago, and I’m very interested in your field in your company and your type of role. Do you have half an hour to chat with me about it?”
Mark notes that professionals love it when somebody younger and full of passion reaches out to them to ask for help.
Here are some things to remember as you try to connect to an alumni:
- Don’t feel like you’re imposing upon them. Most professionals are open to receiving this kind of message, simply because they remember what it’s like to be in the same position.
- Do this as early as possible. The younger the student is, the more willing others are to help. This means that professionals will probably be willing to connect with a 16-year-old rather than a 40-year-old asking for help.
- Don’t take it personally when you don’t hear back. They may be busy, have personal issues, or your message got lost in the shuffle. Instead, try to send a follow up a few weeks later before giving up.
What other skills should my student pay attention to if they want to have a successful career?
Based on Mark’s study, there are certain skills that employers are looking for. This is based on a study 20 years ago, as well as subsequent studies. These skills include:
- Team building
Unfortunately, while some colleges have already started addressing these skills, most colleges don’t focus on them. Colleges teach students that they need to have those skills but don’t teach them how.
Some professors would have someone (i.e. a real estate agent or financial planner) talk about their profession and sometimes general life skills, but they’re not really formally planned as they should be. Mark says that it will take a while before colleges change this and start really modifying their instruction.
What should I do to make sure that my student would possess these necessary skills?
Mark suggests plenty of ways to equip students the necessary skills to get a job and thrive:
- When looking into colleges, check for programs such as resumes and interviewing workshops or other career services. There are colleges (such as MIT) that have these programs.
- Parents can guide their students to learn these skills in a manner that fits their learning styles. These could be:
- Podcasts (e.g. Taming the High Cost of College Podcast)
- Online content (e.g. Mark’s website, The Career Toolkit)
- Books (e.g. Mark’s book, The Career Toolkit: Essential Skills for Success No One Taught You)
- Whatever means the student finds comfortable, make sure to:
- Make them practice the skills. Take leadership, for example. If the student wants to become a skilled leader, then the student should face situations that will allow them to lead.
- Talk with them about what they learn.
- If the student finds it uncomfortable to discuss it with their parents, have them discuss it with their peers (i.e. peer learning groups, high school clubs, etc.)
- Encourage your student to utilize social media and connect to others rather than being limited in their high school environment.
Links and Resources
Helpful Articles and Resources
- Taming The High Cost Of College
- The Career Toolkit: Essential Skills for Success No One Taught You – Book
- The Career Toolkit App – Apple
- The Career Toolkit App – Google
- Mark Herschberg’s Contact Info:
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The Career Toolkit, Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You.
You have kids, they grow up, and before you know it, it's time to plan for college. Where do you start? How much is it going to cost? Will you qualify for financial aid? Should you be looking into scholarships? When will you be able to retire? What about student loans? The list of questions is never-ending. The good news is all the answers are right here. Welcome to the Taming the High Cost of College Podcast. Here is your host, certified financial planner, Brad Baldridge.
Hello, and welcome to Taming the High Cost of College. I'm your host Brad Baldridge. Today, we have a great interview with Mark Herschberg. He is the author of Career Toolkit: Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You. In this interview, we talk a lot about what parents and students can do as they start their career exploration, even in high school, where you're trying to choose a major or a career path, and how having some sort of career plan might be helpful, as well as ways to do some research on what you want to be when you grow up. So we talk about the undecided student, and ways to improve your odds of being employable when it gets to the end. And we also talk a little bit more about his book, where he talks about what employers are looking for, and other important strategies that I think most students today need to really understand. As always show notes are available at Taming the High Cost of College. This is episode 151, so if you go to tamingthehighcostofcollege.com/151, there'll be a link to Mark's book and all the other information that we talked about. Let's go ahead and jump into the interview.
Today we're talking with Mark Herschberg. He's taught at MIT, and he's the author of The Career Toolkit. Welcome, Mark.
Thanks for having me on the show. It's a pleasure to be here.
All right, so you wrote a book called The Career Toolkit. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how this all came to be?
Sure, when I started my career, I was a software engineer, and realized that I wanted to advance and become an executive. As I sat down and thought about what that meant, I realized it wasn't just about being a really good engineer, there were all these other skills, I would need. Leadership, networking, negotiating, team building, communicating, hiring, but no one ever taught me how to do this. It's not in your standard program, in high school or in college. So if I wanted to become a leader, if I wanted to become an executive, I needed to learn all these skills on my own. And as I began to develop them, I realized these skills are not just for executives, they are for everyone, down to even our summer interns, we want everyone in the company to have these skills. So I began to train up my team. As I was doing so, surveys done at MIT and other universities found these are the skills companies want universally, at all experience levels, and all functional areas. These are the skills they want that they can't find. So MIT wanted to put together a program to start to teach this to our students. And when I heard about I reached out, I said, 'Oh, well, I've developed some material for my own company, I'm happy to share.' And that conversation turned into my helping to develop the class and then being asked to teach. So in parallel to being a startup executives, and I've built many startup companies, I've helped Fortune 500, you want to play startup. But in parallel to doing all that, I've also helped to teach at MIT for 20-some years at our Career Success Accelerator Program.
Right? So you've been teaching the material or similar material as what's in the book? And that's kind of the... All right, so tell us a little bit more about the book that I'm kind of looking at some of the different topics in there. And it's pretty broad around things like interview skills and leadership and communication and networking and ethics and all kinds of different things. So, the what is the kind of the point of the book or who should be reading the book and tell us a little bit more about your thoughts there?
So it covers a number of topics, these 10 topics from how you think about your career and crewnecks get a career plan, to networking, negotiating, interviewing, leadership. It covers the 10 topics that we've seen in these surveys. It was designed for anyone who wants to get better at these skills. There are some enterprising high school students who want to develop it. They might say 'I want to get better at networking when I go off to college. I want to stand out as a leader during my summer internships.' Because leadership is not a title. It is a behavior. They won't start developing these skills, college students, certainly people in their 20s and 30s. But honestly, we've had people even their 40s, 50s, and 60s benefit. And it's funny, the number one comment that we see in Amazon reviews is, 'I wish I had this book 20 years ago.' So it's really for anyone who wants to develop these skills. But obviously the earlier you develop them in your career, the more benefit you get. Now, as you noted, it's pretty broad, we have one chapter on each topic. And in fact, it's designed so that you can say, 'I want to work on my networking skills.' Go right to Chapter Eight, skip the first seven, if that's what you want. The chapter stands alone, because I know, no one wants to read 10 books. So we get to the essence of what these skills are, having taught for 20 years, I know how to break them down, I know what the core material is. And so we can just get right into it.
Wow, that's fantastic. So let's apply this a little bit to the college process, because I think this is highly relevant. Because there's many parents right now that are working with their high school, sophomore, junior, seniors, and they're struggling with things like what is their career path? What is their major? And I noticed in some of your materials, you talk about a career plan. So I guess first of all, what is a career plan? Because I don't think most people have one because they didn't know they existed. And so let's talk a little about that.
Yeah, for most people the career plan is, 'I guess, I hope maybe I'll get this title sometime in the future.' But that's a terrible plan. For the parents out there listening, you know when you do work projects, if your boss says, 'Here's a big project, and we need this done, we're gonna have a year to work at.' You never say, 'Well, okay, I guess I just kind of hope, maybe if we all work hard, somehow we'll get it done in a year.' That's not an acceptable plan. You create a project plan, we've all done this. You have timelines, you have milestones, you check in regularly, 'Am I unplanned? And are we falling behind? And what do we have to do to change it?' You're proactive. Now, it doesn't guarantee success, but not having one pretty much ensures failure. And the same is true in our careers. We want to have a plan. Now, it's not going to work out exactly how we planned it, I guarantee that won't happen. But by not having a plan. You're just floating around, hoping maybe you get lucky and get where you want. So we want to instill in our students and our children, this idea of being proactive in creating a plan. Now for many students, it begins by figuring out, what do you want to do? And unfortunately, we have not taught them how to think about that. We typically say to them, 'Oh, do you think you want to be a doctor? Do you think you want to be an accountant? Check the box. Yes, no,' but we don't explain what that is. Yes, everyone knows a doctor takes care of sick people. Okay, I get it, but consider the following. Everyone knows what a lawyer is because we've all seen Law and Order. We've all seen movie scenes where there's a dramatic courtroom showdown. If you actually ask a lawyer, most lawyers what they do, they'll tell you they never set foot in a courtroom. Most lawyers out there do corporate work. They do contracts. They sit in a room by themselves, redlining, Microsoft Word documents. That's what most lawyers do. We don't see that on TV, because that's not very telegenic.
So when the students look, and they think, 'Oh, yeah, I want to be a lawyer. That sounds exciting, that drama.' And then they take the job and show up and discover this is not dramatic. This is not fun. There's a reason a lot of lawyers are unhappy with what they do. So instead of saying, 'Well, you get what this job is, do it.' What you want to do is have your son or daughter, talk to adults in different fields, talk to different people about their jobs. Talk to me about about what a typical week is like, how much time do they actually spend in meetings or doing paperwork? How much is exciting and fun? How much is menial or monotonous or less exciting? If you're into something else? That's what they want to understand. And then talk with your child about what sounds exciting. Oh, are you excited about spending 20 hours a week in meetings? No. Okay, let's make sure we find a job where you're not spending lots of time in meetings. This person is on the road a lot. Maybe they talk to a consultant, and consultant talks about being on the road all the time. They say well, 'That part sounds exciting. I don't like all the PowerPoints you're talking about, I like the idea of traveling to different cities every few months. That sounds fun.' Okay. We need to find you have a job where there's a lot of travel. Now that could be a consultant, but could also be a field engineer or it could be some other type of job. So look for the components. Look for the elements of jobs, not the job title. As they speak with people look at these elements, and then start to construct a job based on the elements that sound interesting.
Right, for sure. I think the other caution too is, there's many career paths or majors or whatever, that are very broad, and can lead into all kinds of things. Like lawyer, right? You could be in the courtroom, you could be contracts for patents, you could be estate planning, you could be all kinds of different things. You can be in the public sector, the private sector, a lot of politicians have law degrees, etc, etc. Right. So there's lots of different directions, that one library can go. And engineering is like that. And there's a lot of other business, broad, general education, perhaps that kind of allows you to go many different directions. And I think the challenge is, one of the things that I learned, and I've seen it a number of times is the first job you take picks the direction you go from there, right, I happen to land at Ford, they put me in the suspension division, so I know a lot about how automobile suspensions work. Well, I guess that's my expertise now. So the next job I look for, chances are is going to be an auto suspensions? And did I choose auto suspensions when I you know, inadvertently, I did. I didn't realize it when I took the job, potentially. But now that I got 10 years experience, that's where I can have leverage. That's where I can, quote unquote, sell my skills. And it's almost starting over if I say, 'Well, now I want to move into sales,' or, some other area. And I think that's you part of a career plan that I see that as kind of a Gotcha! that happened to me, for that matter.
You have hit upon a very common mistake. And this is exactly right. Now, it can happen unintentionally, by, 'Oh, I just showed up. And they put me here and I didn't think of that, so I let them decide for me. I see another version of this where people make conscious short term decisions. In my decades of teaching at MIT, we've turned out a number of software engineers, many of them go into startups. But it was funny was looking at the data of students picking majors and where they want to go, right after the dot com crash. We went for about 30% of MIT, 30% of the students wanted to major in computer science, or electrical engineering, computer science, dropped to about 20% in 2001, right after we had the dot com crash. And that picked back up again, we have the same thing happened, the number of students who were interested in going into finance, it was pretty high until 2008 2009. All of a sudden, students significantly dropped off their level of interest in finance for a couple years, then it came back up. Now maybe there happened to be something in the water that particular year. But more likely they looked at the macro economic conditions. They said, 'Oh, startups, I heard about the last few years were exciting. But oh, there was a crash. So I guess it's not that good a field, it was a fad.' Or Wall Street, 'Oh, it looked really good. But well, now jobs are hard to find.' And what would happen is they would pick a different major, or a different field, 'I want to go into finance, but there aren't many jobs. So I guess I'll take a job somewhere else.' Now you're not just becoming that extra that one little area at Ford, as you point out, you're even shifting your whole industry. And it's going to be near impossible. Once you're more than a few years out, to shift back without doing something like an MBA. So students coming out of school often make the short-term choices, 'I just need a job. And so this industry or this job, this role, this focus, well, they'll pay me. So I guess I want to do that.' And they're not conscientious. And they're thinking, as you point out, that first job really set your orientation. Now you have time within the first few years within about zero to five years, you can do something for a few years something else. But once you've been doing it for somewhere around four or five years, you start to really develop your reputation, your brand, as shown on your resume in that area and begins to get harder to switch.
Right. So obviously, you're at a college and talking with students all the time. So what would a young student do again, if you're a freshman in college, and you're up against the what we just talked about? I mean, what do you do at that age or that when you're when you're just starting out? As far as... Again, let's say you wanted to get involved with suspensions. How do you make that happen from a high school level from a college level?
Great question. First leverage your network, because you want to talk to people in the field. Now a lot of high school students and college students think, 'Well, I don't have a network.' You do, because your network is not just the people you know, it is the people they know. Your parents, your parents' friends, your parents' co-workers, your professors, other students, and their parents and people they know are all in your network. So you can start reaching out and saying, 'I'd love to talk to people who are knowledgeable about auto suspension, or who work in the auto industry.' You can also one try to university, many universities have alumni networks, we don't think about this as an undergrad, we're just too focused on trying to pass our classes that semester. But if you go to your colleges' alumni office, and say to them, 'Hi, I'm an undergrad, I'd like to find some alumni who work in this field,' they can help you. Now, some have formal alumni databases, where you can go and log in and search for people. Even if your university doesn't, you can use a tool like LinkedIn. And you can search for people from your university, who work in an industry or have a certain job title. And it's okay to reach out to them. Alumni actually love this. It's okay to say, 'Hi, we haven't met, I'm an undergrad at your school. I know you graduated here years ago, I'm very interested in your field in your company and your type of role. Do you have half an hour to chat with me about it?' Alumni love this. And now undergrads with the 'Oh, I'm imposing upon them.' Don't worry about that for a few reasons. First, no one ever actually does reach out to alumni, I get maybe an email a year and I'm very open about, 'Hey, you can reach out to me.' Second, they remember what it's like. They remember what it was to be an undergrad and say I wish I had someone to talk to, I wish I had someone who could help me out. So they don't mind. And by having that connection to we're in the same college, they have that, 'Oh, you're in my tribe. And I remember what it's like to be you. That's why we're it works better to hit your alumni' instead of, 'Hey, stranger on the internet.'
Right, for sure.
So use your alumni network.
Right? Now, I was actually talking with someone, 10 or 15 podcasts ago, and he actually said it. And the younger you are, the more willing they will be to take the call. So if you're in high school, now, they're really willing to potentially help you out. Because, again, for whatever reason, it seems like they're doing a good deed, and they're being helpful or I don't know. But there is that psychology because I think about it as a professional. And yeah, and if any high school kid contacted me and said, 'I need 20 minutes, I want to talk about what you do, or I need an hour,' or whatever, I'd probably give it to him again, because they're willing to reach out as part of it, I think. If they're willing to take that much effort to reach out and ask, I think most people would accept it. Now, if you're 40. Now all of a sudden, it gets a little different. I don't know why that is. It doesn't seem right. But that's the way it is, at least for me. So absolutely. I think students that are trying to figure out where they're trying to go. You know, don't be afraid to reach out the worst that could happen and again, I know it's devastating for a typical high school kid is they say no or they just don't respond at all.
And don't be offended if that happens, right? First, if they say no, they might just be very busy. It could be with work with family issues. If they don't respond, I'd say try a second time a few weeks later, some of us were very busy. Sometimes emails do get lost in inbox. If you use LinkedIn to reach out, not everyone is actively checking. So I would three weeks later, try a second outreach. And if you don't hear a second time, give up. But it's okay. And don't take it personally if you don't get a response.
Okay, so let's talk a little bit more about this career plan. Is this a document? Is this a... I would like to do, how do you actually create? Or what would a career plan look like for a typical student, let's say.
There are different ways to do it. And I break down in a lot more detail in the book, how to do it. For some people, it is sitting down and formally creating that plan, creating that list and having it written, I would keep it in my head, but that's just the type of person I am. So whatever your style is, some people formally say, 'I'm going to put time on the calendar to sit down and think through this.' Others do it as I have these open questions. It's the type of thing to think about as I'm commuting to work as I'm waiting for the bus or driving into work, just these thoughts in the back of my mind. So it really depends on your approach, how formal you want to do but what you do have is questions that you should be asking yourself and thoughts about how to model it. And then you can pick how you actually implement that written down, or other methods as what works best for you.
Right. All right. So now if I'm a parent of a high school kid, I think one of the challenges is understanding what we have working well, and what we need to improve. So what's your advice around the student that is relatively undecided? I think that's a big challenge around but half the time, if I had to guess I would say about half the students out there and again, this is just complete anecdotal evidence, but and half the students out there have some idea, right? 'I want to go into business or engineering or teaching' or, and maybe they've got it very narrow, 'I want to go into chemical engineering,' or they've got it broadly, 'I'm a math and science guy, I think it's going to be some form of engineering.' But the other the other half are just, 'I have no idea.' And they're not even willing to put it out there. Or 'I really like music. So I'm thinking about continuing with the with the trumpet or whatever. But I also like math, so maybe I could be a math major. But debate is fun, too. So maybe I should be a lawyer. I love all these things. Why do I have to pick one? Can I just...' They're afraid they're gonna pick the wrong one. Because they like everything, you know? So I guess there's two camps, though, right? They like everything. And it's hard to pick, or they don't seem like they like anything. And it's hard to pick.
So I can certainly relate well, some things for me. I knew from the time I was nine, I want to go into physics. On the other hand, I also had two majors and a minor and probably could have done one other minor because I couldn't settle on doing just one thing. But here's the thing, it's okay not to know what you want to do. Certainly, in high school, honestly, even in college, we force people to pick a major. And not everyone's ready for that. Start with what you do. Now, if you start by saying, 'Here's what I don't want to do.' Okay, great. Let's just eliminate some things. That's a good starting point. Understand, why don't you want to do this? Why don't you like this particular area? I don't like STEM just because I don't like math. Okay, that's fine. As a STEM guy, myself a little sad to hear that. But that's fine. If that's the way you want to be okay, we've eliminated a whole area. Well, now we also know, you want jobs that don't involve a lot of math. Now, you might then think, 'Oh, well, marketing, hey, marketing, that sounds like it'd be fun. And we don't normally think of marketing as math.' But the days of Don Draper coming up with these brilliant campaigns is over. If you're in marketing these days, at some point, probably you're running ad campaigns and ad campaigns involve doing a lot of analytics, and looking at the return on investment. And what's the pricing of this model versus that to get this click in this position on Google or Facebook advertising? It's actually extremely analytical. And a lot of marketing people I know spend their days doing formulas and spreadsheets. So if you say, 'I really hate math,' you can't just say, 'Well, marketing sounds like it's not math,' you have to actually ask in here, wow, there's a lot of math there. So maybe that's not the right field. And this is why you want to get into not just that top level, what's the name of the field? But what does someone actually do day by day. And so by starting with what you don't like, you eliminate things. Maybe you can ask yourself, 'What's the opposite of that? I don't want to be on the road and travel because I don't like flying.' Well, the opposite is a job where there's no travel. Okay, great. Now you can do something you do want a job with no travel. And then you can start to find things you start to like, you can again begin to construct the job. So you don't have to know what the job is, you don't have to know the job title. You can say I want a job with these characteristics. I want a job where there's a lot of artwork involved a job where I don't have to travel much, and maybe a few other things, and then start asking people do you know any jobs like this, and they can start to point you in the right direction, they can start to introduce you to other people who might have a better idea, even if they don't. So construct your own job. Don't just pick from a list that has been given to you.
Right. Okay. Earlier, you mentioned that there are, a lot of the work you've been doing is based on a survey that says 'These are the 10 skills that employers are looking for that many candidates don't seem to have.' And then you created some curriculum at MIT. So as a parent, how do I figure out if the college I'm interested in is now working on said skills that my students should have in order to you know, advance in their to their next step which is for many parents they'd like their kid to get gainfully employed? Is this like common knowledge? Is this a study from 20 years ago? Is this... How do we figure that out? If not a college is going to fill that bill for us?
The study that I was first citing came from 20 years ago, but I have seen subsequent studies over the years. And it is just consistent. You can also even just do a web search for what are the top skills employers want, and you will find similar lists. They like to put out new ones each year pretending things change. But really, that list is pretty much the same. It's kind of like looking, who are the top 10 universities, their rankings might change from one year to the next. But you know who the top 10 are. They're going to be the same top ten 10-20 years from now as 10-20 years ago. In terms of does the college support this? The answer is unfortunately, very easy. No, they do not. I wish colleges did. This is not what they're oriented to do. And colleges have been slow on this uptake. Now we are seeing universities and colleges start to address this. They will talk about 'Oh, we have resume and interviewing workshops, or career services.' Okay, great. They all have that. Some of them are starting to say we have programs like the one we have at MIT, where they're starting to do these skills. There's one university I know, of very good university, they have a class, all their engineers have to take on, effectively adulting. However, for that particular class, the professor who teaches it basically gets to pick the topics. And if the professor says, 'Oh, I have a buddy, who's a real estate agent, one of the lectures will be on how to go about renting an apartment.' If you don't have a real estate agent, buddy, the next year, you don't get that lecture, someone else will talk about financial planning, someone else will talk about careers, maybe it's for our recruiter, they just pick and throw in general life skills topics, as opposed to being formally planned. And that's what I'm seeing more and more at some universities, it's we know we have to get some of this in, but they haven't intentionally thought of that. And the reason is, because when you have a major, marketing, accounting, chemistry, you have professors who are experts who say, 'This is what you need to learn to work in the field.' They don't have anyone who says, 'I am a professor of being a professional. And therefore here are the skills,' so they really do it as an afterthought. And it will be unfortunately, decades before this changes.
All right. So okay, how do we fill the gap, then? I mean, if college isn't going to teach it, school, hard knocks, I guess, is the typical way people learn this, but what are other options?
We have to do it on our own colleges should, but they don't. Corporations should, but most of them don't. So it is on us, us as individuals. And of course, as parents, to support our students learning what they need to know. I recommend different approaches and depends on what your child's learning style is. Certainly there are books that are mine, there are many others. In fact, I referenced on my website, a whole bunch of other great books on different topics. There are wonderful podcasts like this one that they can listen to, to start getting perspectives. You can read content online, watch videos, but you want to get these ideas into their head, and you want to discuss it with them. Now here is the key way to learn. These skills are not like other learning. If you think about school, your child sits here in school and the teacher says, 'Here are the history dates to memorize, write them down. Here's the mathematical formula, memorize it, and just take notes and say, "Okay, great. I know how to solve quadratic equations now."' When do you need to solve a quadratic equation? Well, when you see that formula, you go, here we go solve. Leadership is not that simple. There is no formula for leadership, or communicating. There's no dates to remember to negotiate. And it's not always, 'Oh, right now sit down and lead for the next five minutes.' It's not going to be as cut and dry as our tests in school. So really, the way we want to learn these is more akin to how we learn sports or music. They're things that take practice. If I want you to learn a sport, I can't just give you the rules and say, 'Good, you're done.' You have to do drills, you have to do practice, you have to reflect on how did we do you might strategize before or after a game. Same thing with the skills. So as you engage with the content from podcasts from books, however, discuss them, discuss them with your son or daughter. Have them discuss them with their peers. In fact, I have on my website, this is designed more for corporatations, how companies can create these internal training programs completely free by creating these discussion groups in their organization. So when people do listen to a podcast or read a book, it's in that discussion that they get most of the value. And so we have to remember to do that, as people want to develop these skills.
Okay, so I guess what I was, as you were mentioning that I was kind of thinking about applying that, again, to the high school student and the college student leadership is something you want to learn, maybe you need to get into a leadership position, and then pair that with some intentional learning where if you are trying to, I don't know, leave the club at school, and you're struggling with getting everybody on board and that kind of thing. At that time you read the leadership book, or you listen to leadership podcast, or whatever it is, it's kind of a just in time learning. So it's like, you're gonna go try and apply what you just learned potentially. And, and I think it'd be much more effective.
Although you don't have to wait until you are the president of the club. So leadership, for example, we talk about leadership being influential enough positional, it doesn't come from the title, and you can be a leader, even if you don't have that position. And this is what companies talk about when they say we want leaders, they don't mean we want people with the vice president title. They're saying we want people who take initiative, regardless of their title. And so that's the type of understanding that once your student learns this, they say, 'I can now develop my leadership, even if I don't have an officer role in my club.' And they can come home and say, 'Hey, Mom, I was at the club this afternoon. And we have this issue. And here's what I did. They were trying to do this. But I thought we should do that. And here's how I tried to convince everyone again, that direction,' and either worked or didn't. And you can have that discussion. And that's part of the development of their leadership. So you want to, don't wait till they have a title, begin these discussions now. And it starts with getting some ideas in their head, ideally, from a podcast of book, whatever, but it could even be from other discussions you had, but then reflect, as they apply these at any time at any moment. Or if they're not comfortable talking to you, 'Yeah, I don't want to talk to my parents about this stuff,' have them talk with their peers, get some of the other parents you know, their friends' parents, talk to them about this. I've recommended this on other shows, what I described for corporations, in these peer learning groups, you could, in theory, get your students to do this. And I know, one coach who's saying this up, for example, getting the students to have their peer groups, they discuss it with their peers, who are also more on their level. Because remember, I can't totally relate to the student dynamics at a high school club, I guess, at some level, but I'm a little out of touch with that. And you probably are too as a parent, but there are other peers get, 'Oh, yeah, that's why that's really hard. Because Chris is a jerk. And I understand why you can't quite do that.' They'll be able to reflect at a deeper level.
Right? Exactly. And I think one of the challenges here and is the desire to improve, the desire to be self aware that these types of skills can be worked on and that type of thing. So when, as you mentioned, having that book club, or having that organization where you start learning some things, it's hard to find that, especially in your high school, there might be, but I think there's a lot of groups out there now, if you're young people that are running podcasts that are running clubs of various things, that may not be, once you find it, you'll appreciate it, because you'll click, but you have to realize that you have to take the initiative to go find something, you know. I think, at a typical high school, when there's only you know, two or three hundred people in a class, there's not enough there potentially, to have a group of 5 to 10 that want to read a particular idea or whatever. But if you find that tribe online, so to speak, from all over the country, it's easy to find 5 or 10, or start that group or whatever it might be. But the challenge there, of course, is getting the like minds together. And that's where social media can actually be a positive thing where you can find the groups that you're interested in. You know, there's high school kids out there that are learning LinkedIn and wanting to use it already. They're pretty rare. And they connect to each other. And guess what, they're kind of teaching each other how to do stuff. And you see it all the time, in things like computer games and things that kids love to do. And now I've had a few people on the podcast as an example who said, 'You know, I did well in high school, and I did well in college and I kind of figured it out and decided to put out a podcast about it or put out a book about it or put out a blog about it.' And then they attract a bunch of readers. And now there's this community that they have, who are taking their grades seriously. So there may not be a lot of people at your high school that take grades seriously and are striving to be the best. But if you're part of this community, you might find it outside your high school where there's just not enough in your high school to make it work, you can find it elsewhere.
Exactly. Don't limit yourself your high school, we think of that as students because that's our world. But it could be an online community. It could be from other local resources, such as your church or mosque or synagogue, they probably have, there's certainly lots of other students there. There might be some local community center that can organize something. So don't limit yourself just to your school if you can't find others interested in developing the same way.
Right. All right. Well, that was a lot of great information. Can you tell us a little bit more about where we can get your book. And then earlier, you mentioned an app that goes along with your book. So can you tell us about that?
I created a free companion app to the book. Although we don't look for proof of purchase, you can download it anytime from the app or android store. And the app takes a lot of the great tips from the book, it says if you went through a book with a highlighter, they're all in the app, and so is designed, you only need to open once a month, just so we know that you're still active. And then the rest of the time, it will pop up one of those tips. Once a day at a time you said it's like a daily affirmation. But instead of, 'Hey, good job today,' it actually has some concrete advice that you get from the book. And I did this because so often we read a book, and then we forget all two weeks later, we of course, read books to learn, to change, to grow. So it uses the technique of spaced repetition. What we tell our students to do after you read the chapter, go back and look at it again before the test to help remember it. That's what this app does. But it's designed so you don't even have to open it. And it will help reinforce the ideas. So you start to remember them and retain them. Now you can find more information about the app and everything else on my website, thecareertoolkitbook.com. You can learn more about what's covered in the book, see where to buy it, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all the usual places. There's more content I put out on the on the website each week, there's on the app page links to the Android and iPhone stores. There's an entire resources page. And on the resources page, I list other books if you want to go deeper into a topic, I have links to free online resources. And there's a number of downloads. The first one the development program is how to create this peer learning group. There are the career planning questions from the book, I give that away for free on the website. So all that's on the resources page and all of this at thecareertoolkitbook.com.
And I assume the book is also available at Amazon and other retailers?
Yes, it is.
All right. Well, thank you very much Mark. It was a lot of great information. We'll stay in touch.
Thanks for having me on the show.
All right, that was a great interview with Mark. Hopefully you learned a ton. I know I've been flipping through his book a little bit and learning even more, I just like to remind you that we have lots of free resources around college planning available at our website tamingthehighcostofcollege.com. You can go there to find information about scholarships, the prices of colleges, how need-based aid works, and lots of other great topics. So go ahead and head over there. And if you're new, you can go to the 'Getting Started' button. If you've been there before, you can just catch up on some of the recent articles that we've written and podcasts that we produced. That's all we have for today. We'll talk to you again next week.
Thank you for listening to Taming the High Cost of College Podcast. Now it's time for you to take action. Head to tamingthehighcostofcollege.com for show notes, bonus content, and to leave feedback for Brad. The next step on your college journey starts now. Brad Baldrige is a registered representative of Cambridge Investment Research and an investment advisor representative of Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, a registered investment advisor. Securities are offered through Cambridge Investment Research Incorporated, a broker dealer and member of FINRA and SIPC. Brad owns two companies, Baldridge Wealth Management and Baldridge College Solutions. The Baldridge companies are not affiliated with Cambridge Investment Research.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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