Without a father or mother in my life, there were no guides for me. I was left to fend for myself. Without much direction, I simply attended college because all my friends around me were attending. And being poor most of my life and living on food stamps and government assistance, I knew I wanted a better life and that a higher education would lead to it. I had no idea however what I really wanted to study.
So what happened? I changed fields of study not once, but 5 times. I attended 4 different universities within my first 4 years, and took a total of 9 years to finish my first degree! On top of that, I funded my education on student loans and was left with thousands of dollars of debt by the time all was said and done.
The sad fact is that I don’t believe my case is unique. Kids more often than not, go into college blindly, or best case, on a gut feel. Eventually many realize the initial path they chose just wasn’t right for them. Often times however, it’s after they graduate and hundreds of thousands of dollars later. How can this be avoided?
Here are 5 invaluable tips to ensure your kids are “Getting on the Right Bus” BEFORE they go to college
1) Pursue a course of study in both what you love AND what you are good at.
In the realm of executive leadership, I get the privilege of working with hundreds of leaders from many different walks of life. All bring many talents and strengths to the table but there are two characteristics that clearly separate the great leaders from the good ones. One, they love what they do. Two, they are really good at what they do. The bottom line is that just loving what you do is NOT good enough. You are going to have to swallow this pill; you MUST be very good at it as well. The love will feed your passion, which is very important, but it is your superior talent that will separate you from the pack. Especially by college age, you should have a very good indicator of things, topics of study that come very naturally for you.
2) Identify 5 people who you admire the MOST whether personal or professional, past or present and write down their common characteristics.
If you are not aspiring to become great, then you are missing the mark before you event start. I don’t care what your income level is, what your race or gender is, if you have any disabilities, I just care about what you are aspiring to become. It is impossible to become what you’d like to become without a vision, without a target. Often times, people think about careers but very few think about the people who they actually admire. There are no excuses in this area. Dream big, think big, and shoot for the stars.
3) Create a life map for yourself. A life map will engrain into your sub-conscience your goals and mentally set you up for success. Your life map is your personal commitment of ownership. Literally, your life map will serve as your compass moving forward. Like drawing a cobweb, simply identify the 5 key areas that you want to focus on in your life and expand it out. Your life map’s key areas should ALL complement and NOT contradict whom you are and where you are going.
4) Treat your degree as a “vehicle,” a means of how you will ultimately live out your passion and purpose NOT your ultimate purpose. The reality is that most people go through an average of 5 career changes before they settle into a final career path. Though some of you might be the fortunate few who hit the mark the first time around, most will be finding a new and/or different career within the first 5 years they come out of school. Make sure your degree allows you a lot of room for flexibility and growth both short and long term.
5) Take the DiSC assessment to determine your leadership strengths and weaknesses. There are thousands of great assessments out there that give very accurate readings on individual’s leadership styles and also on where your strengths and weaknesses naturally exist. The DiSC online assessment is one of those tools that I have my clients take prior to working with me. It’s simple, it’s short, and it’s very accurate. Choose your field of study that lends itself to where you thrive and plays to your strengths.
Rubi Ho is vice president of Sherpa Executive Coaching in Cincinnati, Ohio and author of Confronting My Elephants www.sherpacoaching.com andwww.confrontingmyelephants.com