Tag Archives: college major

Is Choice of College Setting Your Destiny?


Your destiny based on college choiceThe article in the Washington Post, The Resume That Makes for a Top Executive, by Gena McGregor, references a new study published this week in the Harvard Business Review, which provides a snapshot over time of the demographics and career trajectories of Fortune 100 executives. The study shows how much the boardroom is changing. Not all students are interested in becoming the next CEO of Google, but choosing a college continues to be riddled with anxiety for those that have choices. The study’s data reveals some changes that are worthy of noting for any high school student (or parent) struggling over which college/university will be best – regardless of career direction.

The study states the majority of top executives now have undergraduate degrees from state universities, with only a fraction going to college at one of the Ivies. Nearly 11 percent of the top executives are foreign-educated, up from just 2 percent in 1980. And however few women there may be in leadership positions, they actually climbed the corporate ladder faster than men, spending fewer years, on average, in each job and taking a shorter time to get to the top.

The research, an effort by professors from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and IE Business School in Madrid, compiled the backgrounds of the top 10 executives at each Fortune 100 company in 2011 — those who might be called the most powerful 1,000 people in corporate jobs. They conducted the same study in 1980 and 2001.

What has interested people most about their study has been the details about where executives got their education. “I was surprised that’s been such a remarkably big deal for most folks,” Cappelli says. “I guess it’s something that makes people think about their children. Anyone with kids is thinking about these roles, and it’s an aspect of inequality that’s very noticeable to people.”

The study shows the education backgrounds of top corporate leaders are becoming much more equal over time. In 1980, just 32 percent of leaders went to a public university. By 2001 that had grown to 48 percent, and in 2011 the number reached a majority, with 55 percent of corporate leaders going to state colleges. While the percent of Ivy Leaguers has dropped slightly, from 14 percent in 1980 to 10 percent in both 2001 and 2011, those with degrees from private non-Ivies has plummeted, falling from 54 percent in 1980 to just 35 percent in 2011.

Why are we seeing so many more corporate executives from public universities? More meritocratic corporate cultures could be playing a role, Cappelli notes, but he thinks it’s mainly due to history. “It’s a bit of an archaeological story,” he says. “If you think back to when the executives now went to school, around 30 years ago, it was sort of the…golden era of state universities, which really boomed in the late ’60s and ’70s. Schools like Michigan and Berkeley — they were building these fabulous campuses, and pulling people in who would have otherwise gone to Ivy League schools.”

That’s not to say elite schools don’t still hold sway among MBA-holders and the very top leaders. If you look at the three most senior executives in each organization (say, the CEO, CFO and Chairman), 21 percent have an undergraduate degree from an Ivy League school, compared with 10 percent overall. Additionally, 40 percent of all the executives who hold MBAs got them at one of the top 20 ranked business schools in the country, many of which are at Ivy League universities.

Another way the makeup of the boardroom is changing, of course, is in the number of women. Like other studies before it, the Wharton/IE Business School professors counted the number of women at the top, finding that almost 18 percent of the top jobs were held by women in 2011. That’s a massive swing from 1980, when they reported finding no women among the top 1,000 corporate leaders.

More interesting than the stubbornly few number of women at the top, however, was the finding that women are managing to reach the top faster. It took women an average of 28 years to reach the “top-tier positions” (CEOs, vice chairs, presidents and the like), compared with 29 years for men. Women reached “middle-tier” jobs (executive VPs, general counsels, chief marketing officers) in 23 years, compared with 26 years for men. In addition, women were promoted quicker in each of their jobs, at an average rate of every four years, while it took men five.

Cappelli offers three explanations for why this might be. One, he says, could be an explicit effort by companies to get women into top jobs faster. “It’s possible that a type of affirmative action is going on,” he says. Another could be that the talent pool of women in these executive jobs is simply better. Because we see more women than men change work paths or drop out of the workforce in the middle rungs of their career, he says, it’s possible “the women are actually better because they’re self-selecting.”

Finally, Cappelli suggests, the difference may be due to the fact that there are more women in functional jobs — such as human resources, legal or marketing — for which the technical expertise needed means they’re promoted more quickly. In the report, the researchers call it “riding a different elevator.”

“If you’re going up through a functional track,” Cappelli says, “you could be advancing at a very different pace than the folks who are going up through operations jobs” that may require more rotations or longer tenures at each stop along the way.

Quirks about the leadership ranks at different companies, and what they might reveal about the different corporate cultures, may be even more interesting than the broad-based trends the study found. For instance, the average length of a top Google executive’s career is just 14 years (the shortest in the Fortune 100) while at Hewlett Packard and ConocoPhillips, it’s 32 years (the longest). Meanwhile, some companies have outstanding male-to-female ratios among the top 10 execs — at Target, Lockheed Martin and PepsiCo, women hold half the senior management jobs — while as of 2011, there were still 17 companies in the Fortune 100 with no women at all among their top 10 leaders.

To Cappelli, this is among the most interesting of the study’s results. “They’re all just so different,” he says. “There’s a UPS model, there’s a Google model and there’s an Exxon model. The idea that there is a corporate model of leadership just doesn’t seem to resonate any more.”

The take-away – Strategically narrow your college choice

Many high school students choose a college mainly on emotional criteria. The following is based on a study by the University of California—Los Angeles‘s released in January 2013, “The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2012.” The 2012 study is based on the responses of 192,912 first-year students at 238 U.S. four-year colleges and universities who entered college in fall 2012.

Strategic Reasons Emotional Reasons
1. College has very good academic reputation (63.8 percent) 5. A visit to this campus (41.8 percent)
2. This college’s graduates get good jobs (55.9 percent) 6. College has a good reputation for its social activities (40.2 percent)
3. I was offered financial assistance (45.6 percent) 10. I wanted to live near home (20.1 percent)
4. The cost of attending this college (43.3 percent) 11. Information from a website (18.7 percent)
7. Wanted to go to a college about this size (38.8 percent) 12. Rankings in national magazines (18.2 percent)
8. College’s grads get into top grad/professional schools (32.8 percent) 13. Parents wanted me to go to this school (15.1 percent)
9. The percentage of students that graduate from this college (30.4 percent) 16. High school counselor advised me (10.3 percent)
  18. Athletic department recruited me (8.9 percent)
  19. Attracted by the religious affiliation/orientation of college (7.4 percent)
  20. My relatives wanted me to come here (6.8 percent)
  20. My teacher advised me (6.8 percent)
  22. Private college counselor advised me (3.8 percent)

To make the best choice, identify your personal preferences for industry and career direction first (you can still be somewhat general but the more clarity the better at this stage). Then research which universities are tied into those industries and are academically highly ranked for the major you are wanting. Look for major corporate donors to a university to see the connection. As they say, follow the money trail. Another way is to call the placement office and ask which companies consistently hire interns (in your major) from the university’s student population.

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm that provides executive development coaching, team development and assessments for hiring. As creator of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl and his team of licensed facilitators across North America have helped thousands of students find a better way through a career exploration process that works.  Self-directed assessment and career exploration coaching packages start at $399. Local public workshops, distance-coaching and in-school programs available. Call for more information at 972.346.2892.

Why a Double Major is Extremely Valuable


When it comes to education strategy, looking at career interests is always first. Then look at the career’s educational requirements and talk to people in the career for additional insight. Find out what education will make you the most attractive to employers for the career you are most interest in pursuing. Students who graduate with a double major tend to be more attractive than students with a single major and those with a major/minor combination.

StudentBookStackTo be fair, there are some careers that require a labor-intensive college degree such as nursing, engineering and possibly business. Double majoring for those may be difficult or impossible. Declaring these majors up front through your college admissions application will likely block any consideration of a double degree going in. Also, pursuing two majors from two different colleges will have its challenges as well. The more academic overlap between the two majors, the less course hours you’ll have to complete.

However, putting aside the labor-intensive degrees, all others are ideally suited for anyone to obtain a double degree in four years. So here is a short list of reasons why you should double major:

  • If you plan from the beginning (starting in high school), you’ll find college academic planning for a double major will result in no or very little additional coursework
  • A double major expands your opportunity to “find” a specific career direction within a general career direction
  • A double major is more attractive to employers. It shows diversity of interests and knowledge and shows you are not one to do the minimum amount of work
  • A double major will very likely set you up for more rapid advancement once you are working
  • If you do decide to change your career direction, a double major has positioned you to make the least amount of academic changes

SCHOOL COUNSELORSThere are some watch-outs when considering a double major:

  • Internships are practically a must – more valuable than a double major. So don’t think a double major gives you the freedom to relax about internships. Keep your GPA above 3.0 and you’ll likely be attractive to internship providers after four semesters. You must pursue internships, they won’t pursue you.
  • Don’t avoid labor-intensive courses. Most double majors won’t kill you. The tendency to select courses that require minimum work out of a fear of being overloaded is a bad strategy. Pick courses that you feel will be best for your career, without consideration of the amount of work. Some semesters will be harder than others but they won’t all be hard.
  • Some universities have a special honors/scholars program for incoming Freshman within specific colleges, but especially the humanities. Apply for these and discuss their fit to your goal of completing a double major within four years. As many students have stated about these programs, “the scholars program was a GPA buster but well worth it for what I gained“. OK, so instead of a 4.0 for those four classes over two semesters, you received a 3.8. Employers won’t care about the GPA impact but they will be impressed with a double major and scholars program recipient.

dream-job-nextexitIf you are considering a double major, the time to decide is between your senior year of high school and the end of your Freshman year of college.

Ideally, going in with the decision already made will enable you to assert your desires on your academic advisers from the beginning. But to do that means you’ve really done your work to flush out career interests. Some universities embrace and encourage double majors and some do not. For some, they won’t let you declare the second major until your sophomore year. The greater the clarity you have at the beginning, the better your questions and decisions as you step through the college selection and enrollment process as well.

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm that provides executive development coaching, team development and assessments for hiring. As creator of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl and his team of licensed facilitators across North America have helped thousands of students find a better way through a career exploration process that works.  Assessment and coaching packages start at $399. Local public workshops, distance-coaching and in-school programs available. Call for more information at 972.346.2892.

I Want to Quit (My Career)


Talent Management MagazineThe July 2013 issue of Talent Management Magazine, a respected journal for human resources executives, highlighted some new statistics that reinforce what I’ve been trying to communicate to parents, high school administrators and college and university career centers for some time now – “what you are doing isn’t working!”

Here are excerpts from the article…you be the judge


First there was the Gallup survey that came out in early June 2013, which found the majority of American employees (70 percent) were either not engaged or actively disengaged with their work.

As if that wasn’t enough to raise red flags for employers who care about and are tracking employee engagement, a new Harris survey for the University of Phoenix in Arizona that was released July 8, 2013 showed that more than half of U.S. employees want to change not only their jobs, but their careers.

Apparently, only 14 percent of workers say they’re in their dream careers.

Some of you may not be surprised to learn this feeling is more pronounced among workers in their 20’s (80 percent), but it’s certainly not specific to this demographic alone: Sixty-four percent of those in their 30s want to change careers and 54 percent of those in their 40s reported the same.

Is this the classic “grass is greener on the other side” syndrome? Maybe. Or perhaps it’s the fact that the unstable economic environment coupled with debilitating student loan debt coerced many graduates to scrounge up any kind of employment they could secure just to have a steady cash inflow. Consider that nearly three-fourths of those surveyed (73 percent) said they didn’t end up with a job they had originally anticipated when they were younger.

And before you go on a rant about how flaky millennials are, you may be surprised to learn that those in the upper echelons of corporate America are among those who want to sign up for a different career. Nearly half (43 percent) of C-level executives said they were somewhat interested in switching careers, while 26 percent expressed a stronger desire to do so.

Offering lateral moves and defining a clear career path for employees might not be the silver bullet when it comes to engagement and retention problems, but it’s a start.


Employers can’t fix this. And then there are high schools and colleges continuing to do the same things they’ve been doing for the past 10+ years, only now the high schools have teacher productivity work flow tools in the cloud (Naviance, XAP, etc.) to help track high school student college readiness tasks.

This is a wake up call. Want to decrease student loan debt? Get smarter about planning career and educational strategies. You can delegate career exploration and career matching to an overworked high school counselor with outdated assessments or delay this work until college where students are going in undeclared, changing majors 3 or 4 times and taking 5 years to graduate at a cost of thousands of extra dollars. Or you can take a proactive approach and do something different.

Better Career Planning Better Lifehttp://www.careercoachingforstudents.net

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Managing Principal of The Nielson Group, an organizational development consulting firm that provides executive development coaching, team development and assessments for hiring. As creator of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads, Carl has helped thousands of students find a better way through the career exploration process that works.  Assessment and coaching packages start at $349 – checkout the Summer 2013 special offer – 30-days coaching support with the Home Study student career coaching package.

How to Have an Effect on Student Achievement


visible-learning-infographic-whatworksinschoolsFirst, let’s put this in context. I am a career coach. I designed a career coaching program, Career Coaching for Students, that I hope is provided to every high school freshmen or sophomore student in the future (I’m not over shooting here am I?).  I am not one to think my hammer is the tool needed for all situations. Student academic achievement is a very complex issue. And ironically, many students would excel if everyone and everything got out of their way.

This article is trying to find why Career Coaching for Students is more effective than what is now offered in high schools and why it has a positive impact on student engagement and achievement.

A very high percentage of students that go through the Career Coaching for Students increase their academic achievement after completing the program. Besides the anecdotal evidence (common sense) that a person who really understands themselves, has identified a potential career that matches their talent design (found a passion) and has developed their own plan for their future tends to be much more engaged – are there more predictive specifics related to why this program works better than other programs?

Osiris Educational in the UK produced an info graphic that reports many statistical findings about what has a positive and negative effect on student achievement. As I examined their data, I became very excited to see many of the strategic pieces in the structure of the Career Coaching for Students program were matching up to the top effects. The authors of the info graphic gave their short explanation of why the top effects work to increase student achievement. I will use their explanations (posted in italics) to form the basis for my comments here.

Top Effects and Why They Work for Career Coaching for Students

1. Self-reported grades/student expectations. This means they are more likely to be successful than other learners as they will be the active element in their learning. Students experience the Career Coaching for Students program like a journey. A coach is not a teacher or parent. We co-create success in examining post-secondary education and career options based on the student’s personal interests. The coach has the methods and tools for the student to quickly identify and learn about high-potential career ideas and engage in research. We don’t leave it to a career assessment listing of job titles found in many assessments. We find the student quickly feels in control and is able to set their own expectations at every step. We just make it easy – it’s all about the student.

2. Teacher credibility. Students are perceptive to which teachers can make a difference to their learning. Teachers who command this credibility are more likely to make a difference. There are two areas of credibility that are crucial to student career coaching. First is the coach’s credibility. It is very difficult for a teacher or counselor whose career has been entirely in the academic world to have a full perspective. Those career coaches that have the greatest credibility tend to have experience in human resource management and/or business management across diverse industries. The second is the assessment’s credibility. Students are perceptive when it comes to reading the different assessments offered through schools. If the assessment produces garbage – or the student perceives the information as less than helpful, you’ve lost the student. Our assessments provide over 40 pages of insights about the student. Our most common comment from students – “This is incredibly accurate.

3. Feedback. Speed of learning doubles following effective feedback. Praise, punishment and rewards are the least effective forms of feedback. Feedback should be just in time, ‘just for me’ information and delivered when and where it has the best benefit. I couldn’t write a better statement to describe the design of the Career Coaching for Students program. Our feedback comes in many forms. First there are the assessment reports (about 40 pages of feedback about who you are). Then there is how to use that information. We unfold the information and integrate it strategically so that the student can connect the dots quickly and easily. ‘Just for me’ is a perfect description of the feedback at every step.

4. Classroom management. Teachers who have well managed classrooms can identify and respond quickly to potential issues and are emotionally objective. Whether we are delivering the Career Coaching for Students program in a classroom or workshop environment or in a more personalized one-on-one setting, the structured approach to “peeling the career exploration onion” with the student enables us as coaches to identify and respond quickly to questions and issues. Remaining emotionally objective has more to do with being non-judgmental about the student’s aspirations. Our approach leaves very little room for subjective reactions to career ideas. We ask great questions that make the student think for themselves. We don’t tell them anything.

5. Parental involvement. Active and positive parents who help students to have high expectations have a positive impact on student achievement. Surveillance or supervision can have a detrimental effect. The Career Coaching for Students program encourages the student to welcome parental involvement and encourages parents to be involved at the right level. Parental involvement is a two-way street that can be more like a slippery climb up an icy road sometimes. Parents who quickly react negatively to career ideas will kill the student’s engagement. We’ve seen it happen more than a few times. Helping the student recover from that slows down their progress. Career exploration is a journey. The student needs to know they are free to explore and will be encouraged throughout the process. With that said, parents have a huge impact on student self esteem and healthy development of responsible independent thinking. We refer often to the program as a “How to make big Decisions” skill development program. It just happens to be focused on career exploration. Parents play a big role here.

6. Cooperative Learning. Students learn better cooperatively than alone or competitively. This form of learning also increases interest and the ability to problem solve through interacting with peers. This one explains why I like the workshop venue. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The student-coach relationship exists to co-create success for the student. Alone doesn’t work – we’ve seen that with the web portal (XAP, Naviance, others) solutions that many high schools subscribe to (see earlier blog article for more about this). In the workshop venue, we see many students with friends in the same workshop. They sit next to each other. Given that career exploration is a very personal exercise, the relationships with fellow attendees in the workshop is very supportive.

The six effects above help to explain why the Career Coaching for Students program is highly effective with all types of students. When it comes to improving academic achievement, I still think the anecdotal evidence is the most valid – that a person who really understands themselves, has identified a potential career that matches their talent design (found a passion) and has a plan for their future tends to be much more engaged – and therefore, much more interested in their own academic achievement.

One of the most frequent comments we hear from parents is “Wow! I wish I had this when I was in high school.

Carl Nielson is Chief Discovery Officer of Success Discoveries and Career Coaching for Students. He is also an organizational development consultant, executive development coach, and creator of the Career Coaching for Students program for high school students and Career and Success Skills Mastery for College Students and Recent Grads.  Assessment and coaching packages start at $349 – checkout the Summer 2013 special offer – 30-days coaching support with the Home Study coaching package.

Choosing and Changing Majors: Status Quo or A New Standard?


The following graphic is from The College Board. We’ll start the discussion here.Is Changing Majors OK?

From the quote in the green bubble, “It’s okay to change your plans even if it means changing your major.” Well, yes, if you find yourself going in the wrong direction, change direction. But The College Board position, and that of most colleges and universities, is that changing majors multiple times to “find yourself” is okay. It isn’t. What it tells me is that the student didn’t do the work to determine a career path prior to showing up at college.

Many colleges and universities report the statistics that support the 2005 article by MSNBC.com that indecision about what major to choose can prove very expensive.  According to Dr. Fritz Grupe, founder of majors.com, eighty percent of college-bound graduating high school students have yet to choose a major before arriving on campus.

With tuition averaging $18,000 or higher in 2012-2013 at public universities, and much higher at private universities, indecisiveness can drain college savings accounts as students restart course sequences or transfer schools – losing credits in the process. Ultimately the result is that the student extends their college days beyond the four years parents planned to finance.

According to College Board, five- and  six-year students are not uncommon. Roughly 40% of those who start a four-year degree program still have not earned one after year six!

There are a variety of good reasons for dragging a college career into its fifth and sixth years—from taking time off for foreign study, to taking advantage of internships and co-ops or needing to balance academics with part-time employment to pay tuition. But changing majors is the one thing that drives up an education’s cost while potentially driving down a student’s self-esteem. It is also the easiest to avoid.

Bad Advice?

There are many (too many) assessments that aren’t valid and reliable. There are also “exercises” that professional counselors recommend if you don’t have access to professional tools such as valid and reliable assessments.

Kate Brooks, director of liberal arts career services at the University of Texas at Austin, thinks surveys can help focus a student’s attention on potential courses of study but she warns about the the students tendency to apply the results too inflexibly. “Often a student will say, ‘the test says I should be a florist, so that’s what I have to be,’” she says. A valid and reliable assessment and process doesn’t result in one career choice. A student that has that belief wasn’t counseled properly and was most likely not using a valid and reliable assessment instrument.

“Nationally, we see statistics quoted that as many as 80% of all college students change their major or that the average college student changes his/her major an average of 3-5 times. If you were able to count how many times students change their mind about what they want to do after graduation, it would be much higher. “
University of Missouri • MU Career Center, 2010
Student Success Center

Rather than properly designed, validated and reliable assessments, Brooks favors an exercise to help undecideds identify and translate interests into majors and eventually careers they will succeed in and enjoy.

She sends students to the nearest Barnes & Noble to browse the magazine racks. They are instructed to buy the three magazines they find most interesting. “We then discuss what prompted them to buy those magazines. It may be they chose Newsweek because they are interested in current events and politics. Or possibly there was an article in ESPN about nutritional sports bars. We talk about how pursuing chemistry could lead them to create a better bar or sports drink. Or maybe it is the marketing aspect that appeals to them — the ads. The point is to help them understand what things excite them and what careers are connected to those things, and which majors would lead them to those careers,” explains Brooks.

That exercise is wonderful but too simplistic. Choosing a career and the best major for that career direction is a little more complicated than that.

Tips for helping your student choose major

What can parents do to help their children get through college in a timely fashion while staying passionate about their choice of major? Here are some suggestions I think are worthy of considering:

  • Refrain from pressuring children into making quick choices or pursuing majors associated with high income professions. Not everyone should or can be a doctor or a lawyer.
  • Focus attention on pursuing courses of interest based on a career direction, even if the immediate relationship to a major or career is not obvious.
  • Double-majoring is a great way to keep opportunities open. With good planning in high school, double-majoring is not only very doable, it may very well be more interesting and provide an extra level of motivation and self esteem.
  • Encourage participation in job shadowing — going to work with people to see what their jobs actually entail and asking people they meet how they got into their careers. While in high school, interview people in the career of interest that are passionate and successful. Parents can help set this up.
  • If they do enter school undecided, engage in a career coaching program that provides professional-grade (highly valid and reliable) assessments and a process that leads to clarity and good decisions. It doesn’t hurt that the program will also assist in a broader sense of creating success across the bigger picture of life.
  • Refrain from giving advice based on the job market of twenty-some years ago or the “parent ego”. Today’s employers need a different kind of worker and favor different degrees. Many parents see their own career as a great direction for their son or daughter. Genetics may have played a part in creating that awesome son or daughter but choosing a career is a highly individualized event.
  • Urge them to take full advantage of campus advisory services to avoid floundering, shifting from one course of study to the next, and prolonging their dissatisfaction and their academic careers. While I am generally strongly negative in my bias about college advisory competencies when it comes to assisting students in choosing a career direction and then matching potentials majors for that career, if you are taking any of the other advice above, this may not be necessary but it is usually the first option. students rely on and is the one option with the greatest gap between expectation of value and actual value. Just keep in mind, you might be told to go to the local magazine store to find your career.
  • Help them understand that a major is not a career. There are multiple paths to most careers, just as there are multiple careers that can be had from a single major. Encourage them to explore their options. Having a career direction is much more powerful than choosing a major.
  • Help them prepare academically before arriving at college to avoid spending their high-priced time on remedial or review classes.
  • If a child is undecided, consider seeking out a college with the resources to acquaint them with all the options to make a well-founded decision. Not all schools have or emphasize such programs.
  • Understand that the student-to-counselor ratio averages 450-to-1 nationally at the high school level. Do not rely on high school counselors to guide children through the exercise of choosing a major.

However they get there, encouraging children to think through their career interests before choosing a school or program can help them avoid future frustration, academic let-down or feelings of failure. It is also key to helping them graduate in four years and move into their ‘real’ lives before they out-spend their college savings accounts.

A more up-to-date and informative article is available.

2015 national webinar to be held in July for career exploration and planning that leads to choosing a major

What Advice Did Successful People Receive? Sounds Like Great Advice for Teens


Business Insider.com recently posted snippets of advice that highly successful people received from mentors as they were growing and developing. As I read each one, I felt like they were speaking to teens (or should have been). Yet, the quotes were pulled from speeches, articles and interviews intended for adults already in mid-career. Since most teens don’t have Business Insider que’d up as an RSS feed I thought I’d post the quotes. You can click on the link above to go directly to the article.

Also, if you are looking for more in the “advice for success” you can find some great videos including Steve Jobs infamous 2005 Stanford college graduation commencement speech posted on the Career Coaching for Students “Got Motivation” page.

Great advice and motivation videos - best motivational videos

1. Terry J. Lundgren, CEO, Macy’s
Gene Ross, the man who recruited Lundgren at Bullock, told him: “You’re not going to do this forever. There’s a finite amount of time you’re going to be doing this. Do this really, really well. And if you do this really, really well, everybody will see that, and they’ll move you onto the next thing. And you do that well, and then you’ll move.”

2. Richard Branson, founder and chairman, Virgin Group
“My mother always taught me never to look back in regret but to move on to the next thing. The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures rather than putting that energy into another project, always amazes me. I have fun running ALL the Virgin businesses — so a setback is never a bad experience, just a learning curve.”

3. Marissa Mayer, VP, Google
“My friend Andre said to me, ‘You know, Marissa, you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself to pick the right choice, and I’ve gotta be honest: That’s not what I see here. I see a bunch of good choices, and there’s the one that you pick and make great. I think that’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten.”

4. Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO, Goldman Sachs
His boss at Goldman during the 1980s told him:
“First, it’s good to solicit your people’s opinions before you give them yours. And
second, your people will be very influenced by how you carry yourself under stress.”

5. Maureen Chiquet, Global CEO, Chanel
Mickey Drexler, CEO of Gap at the time, told Chiquet:
“I’m going to give you some important advice. You’re a terrific merchant. But you’ve gotta learn to listen!”

6. Tory Burch, co-founder and creative director, Tory Burch
“When I started my company, many people said I shouldn’t launch it as a retail concept because it was too big a risk.They told me to launch as a wholesaler to test the waters — because that was the traditional way. “But Glen Senk, [then] CEO of Urban Outfitters and a mentor of mine … told me to follow my instincts and take the risk. I wanted to create a new way of looking at retail.”

7. Eric Schmidt, executive chairman, Google
“Find a way to say yes to things. Say yes to invitations to a new country, say yes to meet new friends, say yes to learn something new. Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job, and your spouse, and even your kids.”

8. Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook Sheryl Sandberg COO Facebook
When Sandberg was thinking she wouldn’t accept an offer to be Google’s general manager, Eric Schmidt told her, “Stop being an idiot; all that matters is growth.” She says that’s the best advice she ever got.

9. Larry Page, co-founder, Google
“In graduate school at Stanford University, I had about ten different ideas of things I wanted to do, and one of them was to look at the link structure of the web. My advisor, Terry Winograd, picked that one out and said, ‘Well, that one seems like a really good idea.’ So I give him credit for that.”

10. Howard Schultz, CEO, Starbucks
“Jim Sinegal, the founder of Costco, gave me fantastic advice because we were going down the wrong track. We brought him in to look at our plan and he said, ‘You know, I don’t want to be rude but this is exactly the wrong thing to do.’ This was my idea, and he was right. “His advice was the cost of losing your core customers and trying to get them back post-recession would be much greater than trying to find new customers, so we completely shifted.”

11. Maria Bartiromo, anchor, CNBC
“My mom says, ‘You have to have alligator skin. You can’t believe the good stuff, and you certainly can’t believe the bad stuff’ and that’s something I’ve come to accept. “So when I see someone say anything nice about me in a magazine or anywhere, I probably won’t read it, because I don’t want to be in a place where I start believing my own press releases.”

12. Richard Parsons, former chairman, Citigroup
Steve Ross, the former CEO of Time Warner, told him:
“Just remember, it’s a small business and a long life. You’re going to see all these people again.”

13. Jennifer Hyman, CEO and co-founder, Rent The Runway
“Just do it. There’s no benefit to saying, ‘I’m just doing this because it will get me to this new place,’ or ‘I’m just going to go into this analyst program because it will prep me for X.’ “If you’re passionate about something, go for it, because people are great at what they love and when they’re the happiest.”

14. Edward Rust Jr., chairman and CEO, State Farm
“[My father] had the uncanny ability with just a couple of little phrases. One: ‘You know better… don’t you,’ and ‘you can do better… can’t you.'”

15. Joe Uva, former CEO, Univision
“Always have the courage of your convictions. Always state what’s on your mind. Follow your gut. And observe what other people are doing around you.”

16. Mohamed El-Erian, CEO and co-chief investment officer, PIMCO
“I remember asking my father, ‘Why do we need four newspapers?’ He said to me, ‘Unless you read different points of view, your mind will eventually close, and you’ll become a prisoner to a certain point of view that you’ll never question.'”

17. Kenneth Burdick, president and CEO, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Minnesota
Burdick received this message from various successful people he has met:
“Surround yourself with good people. And part of that is surrounding yourself with people who think differently than you. Surrounding yourself with people who have different experiences than you. In business, it’s all about the team.”

18. Steve Schwartzman, chairman and CEO, Blackstone Group
“[My high school] coach, a 50-year-old named Jack Armstrong … would shout, ‘Remember—you’ve got to make your deposits before you can make a withdrawal!’ …”Coach Armstrong came to mind in one of my first weeks on Wall Street, 35 years ago. I’d stayed up all night building a massive spreadsheet to be ready for a morning meeting. … The partner on the deal, however, took one look at my work, spotted a tiny error, and went ballistic. “As I sat there while he yelled at me, I realized I was getting the MBA version of Coach Armstrong’s words. Making an effort and meeting the deadline simply weren’t enough.”

19. Peter Swinburn, president and CEO, Molson Coors
“The then-big boss asked me to go and do basically a turnaround job. And he said, ‘I don’t mind what you do, as long as you don’t do what we’ve done before.'”

Mountain Top or Dung Heap?


Dung Heap is smelly and dirtyMy colleague Steve Straus provided this insightful thought provocation to his newsletter subscribers. Adults appreciate the distinction Steve provides around being on the Mountain Top vs. being on a Dung Heap when it comes to one’s career. But do high school students see the distinction? Are parents sensitive to the lesson’s in Steve’s message?

“There are many paths to the mountain top” is an ancient bit of wisdom which means don’t get too enamored with the path you’re on, believing it is the only way. If your path works for you, use it.

Let others choose their own, if theirs works for them. It’s an interesting thought, applicable to careers, study, leadership, and families.

However, there is a problem that many who have taken the upward journey have learned. They have discovered, once reaching the top, they were climbing a dung heap. They found themselves dirty, smelly, and exhausted, and looking ‘over there’ at the real mountain top.

Before embarking on your journey make sure of your destination.

Coaching Point: Have you been pausing periodically to take a deep breath and notice the smell of your mountain?

Carl Nielson is a professional career coach, creator of Career Coaching for Students™ and managing principal of The Nielson Group, a management consulting firm specializing in hiring and selection, team effectiveness and executive coaching.

Career Exploration Requires Developing a Personal Idea Network


TED logoSteven Johnson has a great presentation on where ideas come from that has been made available on TED. Taking his message and applying it to career exploration for high school or college students seemed like a fun exercise.

At the end of his presentation, Johnson states “chance favors the connected mind”.  Now shift your thought to people who are successful and happy in their careers. How did these people find their career? Did it come to them in a dream when they were very young? Perhaps it came to them through a high school class. Or from a discussion with one of their friends. Johnson’s research suggests eureka or light bulb moments, a single event, isn’t how people “found” their career match.

The key to success is in the connected mindInstead, Johnson makes a case for the development of an idea network in the brain that leads to “favor”. So if you can make the assumption that the hypothesis “chance favors the connected mind”  is true, you might find that most people that are in highly successful and enjoyable careers didn’t have a eureka moment. Instead, they experienced a process or journey that promoted exploration of career choices in a networked environment.

The idea of a “connected mind” for career exploration suggests the combination of self-awareness about what in the world motivates you, how you like to do things, people that can offer expanded perspective about careers and information resources such as Student Resource Central on the Career Coaching for Students website and a students’ extended social media network.

A Common Misstep
Exploring potential careers of interest comes before researching educational options including choosing a college. Many students choose a college, university or trade school based on many invalid considerations such as football team success, where friends are choosing to go or the beauty of the campus (I could go on).  Why do they do that? I see two primary reasons:

  1. No access to credible career exploration tools and strategies
  2. Effective career exploration requires work
  3. Without “credible” career exploration tools and strategies, blind faith about what that work will produce is required

What if there were personality and interests assessments that were so valid and reliable for increasing self-awareness and identifying potential career choices they eliminated the need for “blind faith”? What if that led to motivation to do the work to investigate high-potential career interests?

So you’re ready to research educational options and choose a college
One exercise that high school students can do to expand their connected mind for choosing a college is use their Facebook extended network to find students attending a particular college of interest. With Facebook for finding those students and Skype for connecting easily for a chat, it is easy to learn about a particular college or university from the inside. Even better, ask those students attending your school of interest to help you connect with students in the specific major that you are targeting.

Remember, “chance favors the connected mind”. What are the chances you are choosing a career direction and education strategy that will favor you ten years from now?

Carl Nielson is the developer of Career Coaching for Students™, the premier career exploration program for high school and college students. Nielson is the founder of Success Discoveries (www.successdiscoveries.com) and The Nielson Group (www.nielsongroup.com), a global organizational management consulting firm. Prior to consulting, he served over 20 years in corporate human resources management. He holds a degree in organizational psychology from Texas A&M University. Find Carl on LinkedIn.

If you are looking for true career coaching for students, look at http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net. We offer a high school program and college program. Are you past the college years? Check out free resources at Success Discoveries. Professional career coaching services offered.

Copyright © 2011 Success Discoveries, LLC
Career Coaching for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC
Life Skills for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC

My Graduation Speech…for incoming High School Students


Your personal white board is clean. Write on it wisely.

I posted this as part of another post last June 2010. I’ve updated it and gave it is own post. Incoming high school freshman have a clean white board and an exciting opportunity. As a Dad of a college junior and a high school junior, it is so clear how choices made as an incoming Freshman high school student (not to minimize a foundation for self management and personal accountability that was established years ago) play a significant part in how the student graduates. This isn’t based on just my two kids, it is based on observing them and all of their friends and classmates. So based on my observations, along with my experience in the work world, I offer the following graduation speech for those moving from junior high to senior high school.

As you aim for high school, you have an incredible opportunity before you. Think of this time as a clean white board. I don’t mean to suggest your past doesn’t matter. Your past is a part of your future . If you perceive your past as positive, you can choose to carry those thoughts forward. If you consider your past to be less than you desire for the future, you can make choices about that too. You see, you have choices you are making right now.

But let’s test your perception of your past. Close your eyes. think about your first kiss (if that has happened already). Your favorite book you’ve ever read? Your favorite TV show… and movie? How do you see your parents? Your teachers? Your coaches? Your grades? Your study habits? Your desire to be involved?

All of this is going to impact your future. If you see your past positively, it will serve you well as a foundation for the future. If your past was personally less than ideal, it can serve you well as a motivator for creating that better future for yourself. Either way, the future is totally in your control – others do not have control of your future – only you do.

Even though you’ve taken several history classes already, you relate most easily to events that have occurred in your own past – your own past is like a drop of water in all the oceans of our great world. What that means is, don’t let your personal experiences limit you. Don’t let your current self perception dictate what you do tomorrow. The majority of teenagers feel inadequate and insecure. Some show their insecurity through shyness. Others through egotistical behaviors. This insecurity comes partially from being intelligent and partially from giving too much power to the concern for others’ perceptions. The intelligent part refers to the fact that you recognize your current ignorance about yourself and the world around you – that’s smart.

Giving too much power to others comes from a lack of sense of self. A lack of self understanding is easily changed. The more you do…that is, the more activities you engage in – especially outside your comfort zone, and the more you do for others, will give you a better sense of self. If you choose to disengage or to follow others rather than lead yourself, you’ll still get a sense of self but it won’t be accurate. Also, personal development experiences will come along slower and they will probably not be as beneficial.

Give yourself permission to study and enjoy learning world history. To give you an idea of how important history is, place yourself into the future, let’s say about 30 years. Today becomes the past. Your entire high school experience has already happened. Now let’s say you are extremely successful 30 years into the future. How did that happen? How did you become extremely successful? Was what you did in high school a part of why you are so successful 30 years out? Did any world events during your school years frame your thinking and shape your motivators? Now that you are successful, how do you define success?

As you emerge into adulthood, life experiences will be overwhelming at times. For some of you, that time has already happened. If your life has been hard already, I salute you and send you a big hug. I promise you will be rewarded. For all of you, you will experience tough times and overwhelming events through your entire life. It isn’t a matter of “if” you have a hard life. You will have a hard life. Let me say that again. “You will have a hard life.” The real question is “how will you lead your life?”. Will you see your life with happiness and gratitude? To answer the question for myself, my life has been a journey. Not an easy journey. I’ve come to realize that hard work isn’t good or bad. I’ve chosen my view of acceptance of life’s hard work. I’ve also developed a great appreciation for what I do and for so many people that have been in my life.

So, what’s your opinion?

Does money create happiness? Click on the link to answer the survey question.
Answer with either yes or no or I don’t know.

I think my happiness increased the most when I stopped judging and started learning. Do you judge your classmates? Or do you learn from your classmates? Do you judge your teachers or learn from them? Do you judge your parents or learn from them?

There was a time I thought I wasn’t very intelligent. It was during my elementary and junior high school days. I learned many years later that I had many intelligences and in fact some were much higher than average. Instead of being egotistical about my abilities, I am humbled by my abilities. I also see everyone else with the same colored glasses…each of you are extremely talented and above average.

How do I know that? You see, I’ve been running a quasi-experiment for 30 years without really knowing it. In my work as a consultant to corporations, I help CEOs and managers select the best person for a particular job or position in those companies. In all of my work, I never measure IQ or “intelligence” to  predict how well a particular candidate or employee will perform. What I measure has more to do with something you already have right now. Your personal talent.

Your talents are already established. All you need to do is add a little ingredient called passion. Of course you need Life Skills and knowledge and use your moral compass. But with passion, your talent, knowledge and a solid foundation in specific life skills guided by a moral compass will take you to a successful future – I guarantee it! Without passion, the other stuff won’t matter much. Don’t let anyone convince you that you aren’t smart enough. You are smart enough – regardless of your grades today. What will count most is that you find what excites you and that you always act with integrity. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive. For success to find you requires you finding what excites you. There are many paths. You will take several of them to find your success in life. You can do it by chance or you can take control. Either way you’ll get there. For example, you’ll probably have the opportunity to do some career exploration in your Freshman year. You can blow it off or see it as an opportunity. One choice is a slower path than the other path. But in the end it is your choice – to take control of your life or not.

In closing, remember the words stated by many including Quarterback Drew Brees at the Loyola University New Orleans, 2010 Commencement: “Love what you do. You will know it when you find it. Enjoy the journey.”

Now is the time to invest in quality research about you – who you are, what you want to do. You are at the beginning of your journey. The white board is clean. Create the journey that fits you.”

Link to Drew Brees’ speech: http://www.loyno.edu/news/story/2010/5/3/2115

I hope you found this entire article helpful including the links to the full commencement speeches. More 2010 commencement speeches are available at http://www.forbes.com/2010/05/03/commencement-graduation-speakers-2010-leadership-speech.html. Also, if you are in search of an effective student career exploration program, please visit http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net.

Carl Nielson is the developer of Career Coaching for Students™, the premier career exploration program for high school and college students. Nielson is the founder of Success Discoveries (www.successdiscoveries.com) and The Nielson Group (www.nielsongroup.com), a global organizational management consulting firm. Prior to consulting, he served over 20 years in corporate human resources management. He holds a degree in organizational psychology from Texas A&M University. Find Carl on LinkedIn.

If you are looking for true career coaching for students, look at http://www.careercoachingforstudents.net. We offer a high school program and college program. Are you past the college years? Check out free resources at Success Discoveries. Professional career coaching services offered. See what a real career coach looks like.

Copyright © 2010 Success Discoveries, LLC
Career Coaching for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC
Life Skills for Students™ is a trademark of Success Discoveries, LLC

Student Resource Central is Fast Becoming THE Career and College Research Go-To Site


Student Resource Central™, the secure-access part of the Career Coaching for Students™ website is fast becoming THE Career and College Research Go-To Site for students: Incredibly rich with high-quality, high-value and validated content that saves incredible amounts of time for students (and parents).

The Career Coaching for Students™ program is the pride and joy for Success Discoveries (other programs will be coming in time). Because of the depth and quality of the program, the Home Study Personal Edition is $349 (current price) and workshops being offered in various areas of the U.S. range from $500 to $850 per student. While it is worth the price of admission, many families won’t be signing up. Yet, we have an incredibly rich amount of web content for students to use for career exploration exercises, search for colleges that match their educational goals, learn about financial aid, budgeting for college and scholarships and much more. Until now, you had to sign up for the one-on-one coaching or one of the workshop programs to have access to the Student Resource Central site.

We are now offering a $19.95 family license to access Student Resource Central™, the premier career and college exploration resource site. This one-time fee provides access with no expiration. Have more than one child approaching high school? Your username and password will still work next year and the year after. And we provide a 100% satisfaction guarantee or your money back.

We wish every student could take advantage of the full Career Coaching for Students™ program. For those that can’t, access to Student Resource Central™ can be the next best thing.