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‘How It Works’: Finding a Good Job After Graduation

By Robert A.G. LeVine

By Robert LeVine

When I travel the world, I am reminded of a universal truth: people everywhere are the same, but their surrounding environments differ. Recognizing that reality, I am unsurprised when parents insist that, when it comes to jobs and lifetime success, “You don’t know how it works here.”

News flash: I do know how it works. Let me explain so that you know how it works, too.

College is not job training or meant for job collection. It is an education for lifetime success (which does include career, of course). However, these are kids, not yet adults, and things will change, both internally and externally. It can be folly to decide on a career too early. How do I know? Because made a career decision too early, without appropriate investigation. I made a mistake.

Trust me on this: being unhappy does not allow for success in career, much less life. In my opinion, the primary goal should be lifetime happiness and success (in all matters), not just career advancement. By the way, if you are happy, you will achieve more in your career.

So, when it comes to career success, how does it work? Here is my philosophy on earning money as an adult. In priority order:

First, be great. If you are great, you will get paid, whether in your own enterprise or in someone else’s. It doesn’t even matter if others consider your industry as “dying.” Being the best leads to money. Note that attending a name brand school is not the same as pursuing greatness. Seek a school that supports you so that you can actually succeed!

Second, develop a great network of great humans. People can give you opportunities that a resume cannot. It’s like the difference between standing in a long line at a dance club and passing that line because the club’s owner escorts you inside. Personal equity trumps a resume every time. And let’s face it: a new graduate’s resume is not nearly as impressive as the resume of someone with even just a few years of experience. Get a job above what your resume suggests.

Third, do build a strong resume. This could include “name brand” schools, but not necessarily. There should be much more on a resume than merely “I went there for school.” I do admit that there are some firms that chase “Ivy+” resumes, but that’s just so they pad their own corporate resumes. Those people usually leave those companies in two years (plus or minus), requiring that the company refill the slots with more Ivy+ resumes just so they can name drop.

It all starts with the admissions process. In applying to colleges, we believe that every student’s list of prospective universities should be blended, from what some would call “reach” to “target” to “safety” schools. However, if you want success, each school must be a good fit for the student. “Fit” includes the structure of the school (is it “siloed” or broad-based?), the structure of the curriculum (especially the requirements beyond the major), the on-campus culture (would you love or hate the place?), and the off-campus opportunities for inspiration, education and resume-building. In most cases, you will not choose your college until April of grade 12, when you may actually decide on your best school from multiple good options (their deposit/decision is due by May 1). But you cannot choose from options that are not there, and things change a lot during grade 12. So, look for schools that might be optimal (they can have different attributes, but all should fit you well).

Here's two additional tips:

Look closely at the percentage of the school’s students that attend summer school. When everyone attends summer school, the question of “what am I going to do over the summer” is not often considered. When you don’t look for opportunities early (or at all), you miss out on valuable opportunities.

Also consider the school’s location. If you are interested in a career in the social sciences (such as business), is there anything off-campus that can provide internship opportunities? College towns – while great for STEM students – may be insufficient for your professional growth.

An Ivy+ diploma is not a guarantee of success. If you want success, bet on yourself by putting yourself in a position to succeed.

Robert LeVine is the founder and CEO of University Consultants of America, an independent educational consultancy assisting students around the world with applications to colleges, universities and graduate schools. For more information, call University Consultants of America, Inc. at 1-800-465-5890 or visit

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