Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Writing Your Ticket

The Houston Chronicle had an article yesterday about an area high school student who was suing the University of Texas because they use race as a factor in their admissions processes.

The case may not be that strong, since the girl’s SAT scores were not particularly impressive. But what struck me as interesting, was that the story noted that she had been accepted at Baylor and Lousiana State Universities, both of them fine institutions with very good reputations. More than a few of readers commenting on the story, asked why the girl did not simply go where she had already been accepted? That question spurred this article.

Those who know me, know that I am pursuing my Master of Business Administration at the University of Houston at Victoria. I chose UHV for a number of reasons, including its AACSB accreditation, its low tuition, and the availability of online classes. I chose UHV over many other schools, schools which are worth consideration in their own right but who could not meet my needs the way UHV serves. I wonder how many people are aware of the significance of their school choice?

We live in an amazing age, not least because many of the old assumptions and stereotypes have been lifted from hindering individuals. So it is, that a 47-year-old like myself with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature can rebuild himself as an accountant, on the strength of his resume and the acquired academic credentials. OK, sure, so I spent two decades doing accounting work so my resume wil lactually be applicable, but my point is that in the modern age, I can correct the mistake of a liberal arts degree by earning my MBA with a concentration in Accounting.

What I am saying by that, is that information is more important than ever, and we have actually passed from the Information Age to the age of Knowledge Management. Someone with the right education can effectively write their own ticket, certainly in comparison to folks who just ride along and hope things will bounce their way. But there’s more to it, than just getting a college education, or even an advanced degree. My wife’s sister earned a Master’s degree, but beyond hanging the diploma she has done nothing with it. The short answer there, is that she never considered why she was earning that Master’s degree, and so she had no plan for how it would help her achieve anything of substance. This happens a lot, though – a lot of students seem to just go from high school to college as if it were just grades 13 through 16, with everything planned out and the same for everyone. As a result, there is no greater plan in place, no strategy to use the degree as a tool for personal and career advancement. It does not help that we live in a world where success in business is wrongly considered a moral failing, that a man or woman who is financially successful must somehow be a bad person, unless of course they demonstrate the appropriate political opinions. The thing is, the old maxim started with the Bible verse that the love of money was evil, not the money itself. Many people who do not have money, are every bit as greedy and selfish as any miser from fairy tales and novels.

Anyway, if a person knows what they want to do, the proper degree from the right school can make a real difference in their chance at success. And by ‘the right school’, I actually do not mean those schools with huge reputations and equally huge tuitions. While some schools can help a student get an interview with a large corporation, and maybe a tiebreaker in some early hiring decisions, what I am talking about are the skills and tools a student can use to make their career something special, and the selection of the school which best suits the student’s needs and opportunities. In my case, for example, I am 47 years old, with 24 years of work experience. That means that a big-name school will do less for me than it will for some 22-year-old with no work experience; my resume works both for and against me. Also, with my work well-documented, I do not need a school name so much as I just need to certify my credentials. An MBA from UHV is as useful to me as one from UT or HBU. The AACSB accreditation, along with my learned skills, means that I will be significantly more formidable in my next career move, even if it is to remain with my present employer. The Accounting concentration matters because of my work experience, my personality, and the type of work I am most likely to find available. That’s not going to be the case for everyone, but it amazes me to see how – even among my UHV classmates – how few of them are aware of their own skill set and career preferences, and so how few of them are really ready for what they will do once they have their MBA in hand.


Dan said...

You were an English Major? And you wrote "Someone with the right education can effectively write their own ticket" and if a person knows what they want to do"?!

(Just jerking your chain, and, no, you are not welcome to cruise my blog and pick out the grammatical errors!)

DJ Drummond said...

Yes dan, your comment proves it has been many years since my degree, and just how much I recall from it!

Your other comment reminds me of what my grammar prof said once in class. The guy actually said, with a straight face, that if we interrupted our friends and coworkers to correct their grammar, that they would respect and appreciate us more.

If I had heard that my Freshman year, instead of my Senior year, maybe the 'career disaster' warning bell would have rung earlier.

Dan said...

WHAT?! An English professor whose connection to the real world is non-existent? (Remember, these are people who think that poetry is an important part of American culture . . .)

I'm a recovering English major, too.