Five Questions Students Should Be (But Aren’t) Asked

Five Questions Students Should Be (But Aren’t) Asked

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.

Using my own personal experience as a case study, I noticed that I graduated nearly blind to what my experience was really going to be like. 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).

What I discovered is that as a student I was often asked two questions:

  1. What do you want to do when you graduate?
  2. How are you going to do it?

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 these five questions:

1. What difference do you want to make?

2. Where do you want to live?

3. What experiences do you want to have?

4. How do you want to do your work?

5. What life do you really want to live?

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’ basements.

Follow Eric on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn. Check out his TEDx talk here.


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