College, Career, and Civic Readiness (5/5): A Thinking Pro Blog Series
Over the past several weeks, we’ve been discussing the ins and outs of college, career, and civic readiness. No matter where you are on your life’s path, you’ll find yourself entering new situations with new people and new expectations -- and you’ll need to be prepared for every step of this great adventure. Achievement in these three (and more) arenas demands certain competencies, and there are consequences for those who aren’t ready to “hit the ground running.” Furthermore, since nobody’s living in a vacuum, our readiness -- or lack thereof -- affects many more people than just ourselves.
To better illustrate the implications of college, career, and civic readiness, let us consider an example “case study.” To wrap up our five-part blog series, we’ll follow the journey of one (fictional) learner, as he progress through each of the “Three Cs”. Our subject’s name is Robin*, and he is getting ready for a major life milestone: graduating from high school and starting college.
[*We picked a gender-fluid first name, and used a male pronoun only to help with ease of reading.]
After the excitement of freshman orientation, Robin will quickly discover that college isn’t all fun and games. College success demands a solid foundation of knowledge, critical thinking, and reading skills, built throughout Robin’s grade school years. If Robin isn’t ready to tackle entry-level courses, the costs could add up quickly; private tutors, remedial classes, or even an extra year or two of college can end up costing hundreds of thousands in the long run.
And this cost isn’t just coming out of Robin’s pocket. Any parents, guardians, co-signers, or other benefactors that have helped Robin pay for school will suffer from his unpreparedness. Beyond just financial costs, all of the time and energy that Robin’s professors, advisers, and classmates are investing will be wasted.
After conquering college, Robin will emerge into the professional world, and find that it presents its own unique challenges. The competencies required for a successful career build upon those established in college, adding more interpersonal skills, social awareness, and leadership ability to the prerequisite knowledge and technical skills.
Just like in college, there’s a cost for not being ready; if Robin has to play “catch-up,” his employer will eat the cost in providing extra training and professional development. And if Robin really just can’t cut it, he might not be able to keep the job he worked so hard for; some estimate that replacing an incompetent employee can cost anywhere from 16% to 213% of that employee’s annual salary. Clearly, if Robin isn’t prepared to succeed in his career, his co-workers, supervisors, and company will suffer, losing all the money, time, and resources they have invested in Robin’s success.
Robin still has one more “C” to tackle: civic readiness. Success here demands not just knowledge of society, democracy, and your own community. To be a truly involved citizen, Robin will also need an earnest desire and motivation to participate. And since democracy is all about self-governance, Robin’s preparedness isn’t just affecting Robin -- it impacts the entire local, state, and federal community. When we trust in self-governance, we also trust (or hope) that our fellow citizens are educated and prepared to make good decisions, investing in the democratic process.
So what’s the cost if our fellow citizens aren’t ready? Quite simply, if Robin is unprepared, he won’t be able to meaningfully participate in the democratic process. Not only will Robin suffer the consequences of not having his opinions heard or his needs represented, but the community will suffer as well. While the absence of one single citizen might not be noticed, if many people like Robin are unprepared, the community may eventually become “lopsided” from a lack of just and equal representation. The sense of community could break apart or become nonfunctional, ultimately leading Robin’s fellow community members to move elsewhere, ultimately hurting the economy and education system.
Investing in Robin (and yourself!)
Our case study Robin may have progressed successfully through college, a budding career, and civic responsibilities, but we clearly don’t all take the same journey through life. Even if you don’t attend college, or start a new career late in life, almost everything you do will require similar thinking tools to be successful in life and make the world a better place.
You may have noticed the word “investment” pop up in discussion of each of the “Three Cs.” Whether referring to time, energy, money, or other resources, it is clear that every facet of life involves investments. Starting out to build your own life is extremely exciting, but it’s not a solo journey! In college, your classmates, professors, and financial supporters will invest in you; in your career, your employers, coworkers, and customers will invest in you; and as a responsible citizen, your entire community is invested in you.
That’s why it’s important that you, in turn, invest in the tools you need to be ready for success in each of these “Three Cs”. In doing so, you’ll set out on the right foot, and be able to focus on the thrill of living life.