I’m a college professor, so I often get the same response from 20-30 year olds when I meet them and ask what they are up to. They invariably say, “I work, and oh yeah I’m going back to school.” Many feel like they have to say that they will soon go back to school, or they are planning to enroll in college. I thought I would write a post to encourage you to have pride in working, and alert you to the options and opportunities for wealth creation even in the context of building from a work history outside of college.
My question, “What are you up to?” is rooted in my search for your pride, your plan, and your sense of sustainability. It is not a judgment that working is without merit.
Pride of Work
If you are gainfully employed, I want to know if you are respected for your work ethic. Even if your present position is not one that offers a great deal of upward mobility, have satisfaction about putting in the time. Make work a time to clarify your options, gain positive references, and engage in social networks (the real life ones!).
If you know COACH Live!, you know that the day job is only a placeholder anyway. What you do in those “off-work” moments is what defines your hustle, and eventually your wealth potential. Like Kanye said in a song, “…Watch him. He gon’ turn it into a Benz out of that Datsun.” I applaud the fact that you are working. But, I am inspired by what you do after work. I ask the question because, if you are not clear on what to do after work, I can help with that.
Building a Plan
When I ask what you are up to, it is an intentional question. I want to know what your plan is. Being a mentor and coach, I am looking to see if there are things that I can contribute to your plan. Structurally, I could help you understand systems for financing your ideas, or I could help you find a market for your ideas. The question is more than “What job do you do?” Or “Why are you not in school?” It is asking about your vision of how the world works, and how you are working it to your advantage.
Personally, I can provide you with a sense of backup. I am often heard saying, “No one succeeds alone.” The other truth I recite often is, “The ability to overcome fear is bolstered by the belief that someone has your back, just in case.” The combined truth is that you need someone who can both show you how you can make it AND someone who you believe believes in you—someone who you know will take up the slack if your risk does not pan out.
After all, many examples exist of entrepreneurs who dropped out of school to pursue bright futures in business. The world is also replete with examples of people who finished college to work in and found lucrative enterprises. It is not a question of the “right way.” It is a question of the most sustainable path for you. Sustainability requires you to know your goal. A carefully selected class or two may help you figure this out. But, a talk with a supportive boss, school counselor, or accomplished relative can result in the same. Success is not a destination. It is a movement. If you are working right now AND working on a progressive plan that is success.
A Place for Education
Of course, a college education has value. But, you will also hear me begin every Freshman course I teach with encouragement for them to drop out. I encourage them to take a break and mature if they are not going to approach college with seriousness. If college is not respected even more highly than a job, you need to seek a new perspective.
College is not high school, but it is also not a given. Your attendance and your presence must be about something. College brings together your work ethic and your hustle. It adds in consultants, called professors, who want to see you succeed. They want to teach you what you do not know, and they expect you to make mistakes. All that is required of you is to be sober and diligent. Have a vision. If you lack that vision, and that lack results in choices to skip class or allow life to take precedence over college, do not risk failing out. Stop and resume when you can apply yourself and take full advantage of the opportunity.
For those of you who are ready, college is the moment you have been waiting for. It is your first professional network. It can be the place where you launched your vision. If you are working while you figure that vision, I only have one request. Connect with a university or community college counseling office and have a conversation about vision. Attend some open houses and meet some professors. Pick their brains for ideas. Expand your perspective and work on clarifying your vision. When some professor asks you what are up to, say with confidence, “I’m working to combine my work ethic with a viable vision.” When they ask what your plans are, say with expectation, “I’m looking to find a mentor who can help me chart a plan.” Do not worry about impressing me. I was already impressed with you. That is why I asked.
[ Michael A. Wright, PhD, LAPSW is a father of two girls and a boy. He is also a 20 year veteran husband. He works as a leadership coach and organization consultant based in Nashville, Tennessee. With over 16 years of experience guiding individuals to their goals, Michael has the techniques and patience to help you succeed. Follow @MAWMedia on Twitter or connect for a consultation at MAWMedia.com ]