After hiring, managing, leading and sometimes firing recent college graduates and interns, it has become evident to me that the honours student is too obedient, while the average student is mostly too complacent to be an entrepreneur or to make it at an entrepreneurial firm in this economy.
For the honours student, their prestigious diploma is a culmination of an ability to follow rules exceedingly well and to adhere to the requests of authoritative figures similar to managers. For this reason their lives become too structured to ever feel comfortable in highly uncertain, risky situations where they could lose everything they worked for throughout their scholastic career.
If they are taught to listen to everything in college, then they are going to become a employees. The majority of college professors, even in entrepreneurship majors, are educators who may or may not have opened a small business sometime in their life, but are highly unqualified to teach students who are paying a quarter million dollars for an education how to open a business.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that students who have done exceedingly well in school have grown up, and rightfully so to a certain extent, with parents who think they are wonderful and special additions to the world. While self-esteem is an important thing, the problem emerges when these parents tell the kids this too often, and those kids adopt a sense of entitlement. You might be the most over-achieving graduate to ever come out of the Ivy League, but no one – no one – can rest on their laurels at age 22.
Then, you have the straight 2.5 student who is too much of the polar opposite of the honours student. The C student typically suffers from a lack of nuanced – or sometimes even minimally professional – writing skills, or any form of responsibility (which is needed to clients especially when starting a business). This student has trouble learning and since they were told that they are no good at formalized learning, they have usual given up on venturing out to educate themselves on aspects of both life and business.
I must say that the few exceptions to the C student rule is that if the recent college graduate has had to overcome a disorder such a dyslexia or other learning disabilities – things as such have proven to be big drivers of ambition in the past. Not to mention that much of the educational establishment is hardly geared toward students with dyslexia, ADD, etc., so quite often in another environment, C students with learning disabilities would have been A or B students in another learning environment.
Funny enough, technology gurus can hack it in entrepreneurial life because while they are insubordinate to teachers, they are learning a highly valuable, lucrative skill. A great example is Bill Gates, who challenged the educational powers that be at Harvard University only to become one of the few individuals who have ever set foot in the school and who could now figure out a way to buy it.
The Shoe Just Fits Right With The “B” Student
Usually, the B student holds an advantage when starting a business or joining an entrepreneurial firm because they an acquired aptitude for learning, and are just as lucky enough to challenge authority the right amount to not buy into everything that they are told.
These kids are often stubborn in nature and will follow the rules to allow them freedom from an established, overly formal educational work environment that, either knowingly or unknowingly, would make them employees.
Moreover, many of these individuals could be honours students, though are not particularly interested in formalized education enough to put in the effort for less than immediate rewards. They are dormant talent who, if luck should have it, will find that business idea that they love and will at the same time find that their current boss is just as inept as the people they have met throughout their education.
To be an entrepreneur you have to loathe being told what to do by others, and often you must challenge their authoritative ability to be giving out this advice. When will these “B” students realise that they have this potential?
Who knows, but the youngsters typically don’t enjoy reading so they are highly unlikely to leisurely read enough to dig up this article.
Ken Sundheim runs an executive search and staffing company. The recruiting agency was started by Ken in 2005. KAS staffing firm Chicago headhunter and recruits and executive headhunter sales, marketing staffing NYC