I’ve said before, in this space actually, that my Dad is a really smart guy. I came to this realization after moving out, starting my life and having to deal with all the things that growed up people have to deal with. Not fires, famine, or flood. Simple stuff. Like buying insurance, keeping your lawn in shape, getting up and going to work every day, not being a burden to society. You know, the kind of stuff that all of you will have to do every day in the next couple of years.
This week I say my Dad is smart because I saw how he bought cars. Back before Al Gore invented the interwebs families generally would affiliate with a manufacturer when it came to buying cars. You were a Ford guy, or a GM guy. Mom had Buicks. Dad had Pontiacs. And your slightly eccentric uncle had an MG convertible. When your Chevy wore out, you’d go trade it in…on a new Chevy. My family was a GM family.
Then my Dad discovered Motor Trend. This magazine revolutionized the way my Dad, a Purchasing exec, looked at car buying. Before, he would just haggle to get the best price. Now he armed himself with information. Performance specs, invoice pricing, availability, cargo space, 0-60 times. All of that information was compiled into rudimentary databases for thorough analysis. Motor Trend and other magazines like it were the source of this info. He’d also go buy the Kelly Blue book and Edmunds guides so he could estimate new car prices and trade-in values.
He would walk into the dealership like he owned the place. Armed with the knowledge of months and months of tedious research he would eviscerate the cheeseballs and bond with the pros. Nothing was as powerful as knowledge! What was the payoff of all this research? Generally he got what he wanted. Sometimes market forces thwarted his efforts (Sorry sir, but you’re gonna pay sticker for that 1984 CRX because there are 50 people behind you waiting on one…) but he mostly got the car he wanted for a fair price.
Then came the internet. Edmunds.com opened up their guides to the entire planet. Dealer invoices were now searchable. The manufacturer discounts auto retailers get became common knowledge and part of the negotiation process. Everyone knew what terms like “floorplan” and “days supply” meant to dealers and used those statistics in their negotiation. Additionally, Yelp and other sites like it became a place for consumers to air their grievances or sing praises. Only a fool or sucker walks onto a car lot these days without know exactly what they want to buy and the price they want to pay for it. You go armed for battle!!
This trend spread to other markets. We now have UrbanSpoon telling us where to eat, TripAdvisor telling us where to vacation, and Angie’s List telling us what electrician or AC guy to hire. There are sites for babysitters, pet sitters, and grandma sitters. Reviews and evaluations for any good or service are no harder to find than Google. Now everyone researches like my Dad. He was cool before it was cool. Old school cool.
So my question to you is this, if you are going to research what you’ll drive, where you’ll live, what hotel you’ll stay in and what cheeseburger you’ll eat. Why won’t you research what job you’ll do?
Here is the typical process I see day in and day out. I want to be an Accountant. Why? Because I’m majoring in Accounting. No, I mean, why be an Accountant? I want to make a lot of money. Then why not go into sales or own your own business? I don’t want to do those things. Gotcha…how’d you do in Algebra? I took it twice, why? You do know that Accounting is just Algebra…you know, debits equal credits. Oh…
Ok, Accountants, don’t get in an uproar, I know it’s more involved than that. But if you don’t love the Algebra part, you’ll never get to be an Auditor for PwC.
Then there’s this conversation. I want to be a Financial Analyst. Awesome, where? I don’t know, maybe where they analyze finances. Do you know what a Financial Analyst does? Analysis.
Figuring out what you’ll do for the bulk of your life should be more involved than, “My mom said I should…” or a random selection from the UCF catalog. In the first Career Professionalism class (GEB 3003) you will be required to take two self-assessments to identify your personality traits and interests. Armed with this new or reinforced self-awareness, you will meet with a Career Coach to discuss what you plan on doing after graduation. They can’t answer the question for you. You will have to do that.
Then you’ll research jobs and companies. I encourage you to spend some time on this part. If you just look the company or job up online, then all you’re doing is looking at the pretty picture in the car magazine. I want you to dig in. Talk to people who do the job and work for the company. Think about that car buying experience. Do you want to be at the mercy of someone else? Or are you making an informed decision about how you’ll spend the next 50 years of your life?
The first assignment is your opportunity to do as much or as little research as you need (remember my talk about getting answers right versus getting the right answer?). Dig deep and you’ll make a smart buying decision. Do a superficial job and you run the risk of just reaffirming what you think you’re supposed to do, not learn about what you are MEANT to do.
Kind of like what happens when you come from a GM family and buy a 1980 Chevy Citation because Motor Trend made it their car of the year. (http://www.caranddriver.com/features/dishonorable-mention-the-10-most-embarrassing-award-winners-in-automotive-history)
Sorry Dad, had to call you out on that one!