I stole my “wants and needs” shtick from my dad years ago. For the last 19 years I’ve used it on my son to help him learn to be careful with his resources. To make thoughtful and calculated decisions (I figure ONE of us has to be able to do it!) I use it in class as well to help students develop a sensible approach to career decisions. I think my dad really is an accountant at heart. He also taught me about “deficit spending.” It’s a funny story…

See, my buddies and I wanted to go camping. Not because we were barrel-chested, Paul Bunyan-esque, outdoorsy types. But because we wanted to go buy some beer and sit in the woods. Trouble is we were still in high school. Well, we figured out a way to get the beer and sat at our campsite tossing back some suds. That’s when one of us got the brilliant idea to go back into the neighborhood. Fast forward and my friends and I are taken home in the back of a police cruiser with my dad opening the door. He was NOT amused…

Yes, I got punished. But what kept me from being ground into a fine, drunken, teenage powder was a simple accounting concept. See, I had built up credits by doing things well. I made good grades. I didn’t ditch class. I did my chores and held down a summer job. So, when I made a huge entry on the “other” side of the ledger sheet, it wasn’t quite as bad as it could have been. There was a blow, but I hadn’t spent more than I’d collected.

So it’s with this in mind when I get questioned by students about the activity portion of classes. For example, in the career classes I teach, I require students to engage in career related activity. There’s a huge list and I’ll even consider activity recommendations and requests that aren’t on the list. Students choose what they will do because their career goals can be as unique as the individual. Informational interviews. Attending workshops. Attending networking meetings. Managing projects. Bringing in employers to meet their classmates. Even starting a new student organization. ALL of these are things students should be doing to prepare for what they want to do after graduation.

Additionally students are required to meet with their career coach at least once and attend one lecture in person. If not, they lose points. If they schedule these things and then don’t show up (i.e., fail to fulfill their obligations) then they lose more points. The secret to not doing things, then, is to face up to not doing them and not say you’ll do them when you won’t. Embrace your sloth! In the end, what can it hurt?

A student who just takes quizzes and tests from home in the Career Professionalism classes can earn, at best, a D in the class. That’s if you get all the answers right, but don’t do any activity, don’t attend lecture, and don’t meet with your career coach. And as they say, D is for diploma!! Seriously, do the math. If you have a 3.0 GPA and maintain that performance except for making a D in the four career classes, your GPA only drops .07 to a 2.93. if you have a 3.6 it only drops you to a 3.51. Hardly Earth-shattering. Again, you’ve deposited enough revenue into your account that when you write some hot checks, it’s not as critical.

Or is it? First off, if you haven’t read my opinion on getting answers right vs. getting the right answer, please do so: https://careerpros.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/right-answers/. Second, what about the added benefit of actually doing something? Over the break I asked students to send me examples of how they used class activity to move ahead in their career preparation. Here’s some examples:

  • Secured a new job and significant raise after applying for a job found during the research part of the Career Project in GEB 3003
  • Secured an internship after meeting an employer at a Blackstone Launchpad workshop
  • Secured an internship after meeting an employer at a networking meeting
  • Secured an internship after meeting a company CEO at a College of Business event
  • Secured an internship by reaching out to a guest speaker from a prior class
  • Secured a promotion after meeting with a Career Coach to go over how an internal candidate should prepare for an interview versus an external candidate
  • Etc…

So when you look at it. The cost of doing nothing may not be very high in the short term. But the long term benefits will pay off handsomely!