Monday, April 8, 2019

Advice for high school and college students

Note: The following was originally published on back in November 2017. I thought it was worth sharing here. Hope you enjoy and find it to be of some value. 

Advice for High School and College Undergrad Students

By Aaron S. Robertson

November 2, 2017

In addition to serving as publisher of, the author serves as a board member of the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and as president of Muskego’s Library Board. Currently a doctoral student at Milwaukee’s Cardinal Stritch University, he is the business manager for Estate Services, a remodeling contractor in Muskego. All views expressed here are strictly his own.

A few days ago, I wrote arguing that the partnership between the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and the Muskego-Norway School District is one of Muskego’s best kept secrets, and that it goes a long way in enhancing Muskego’s workforce development efforts, and hence, its overall economic development. The partnership achieves this by providing students with opportunities to gain practical knowledge and insights into the world of work; in other words, it seeks to bridge theory (what is taught and learned in the classroom) and practice (how it’s applied in a work and business setting).

I’d like to follow up on that piece with some advice to high school and college undergraduate students meant to further prepare them for work and business.

1) If you’re still in high school, don’t rule out a technical college for your education, at least to start with. There are plenty of great, high-paying jobs available out there that don’t require a four-year degree. Get an associate’s degree in a proven skillset or trade first, and then you can always pursue a four-year bachelor’s degree and higher later on down the road. A bachelor’s degree in a business or management field, teaching, or an area that compliments and enhances the core of the associate’s degree, can all potentially pair very well.

2) It’s never too early to begin networking. Establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships in the community and in the world of work and business early on can provide you with a competitive edge when it comes time to enter the workforce, seek advancement, or start a business of your own. Not only will you have established connections that can serve as references or referral sources, but you will also be acquiring a wealth of practical knowledge and insights by learning from them.

3) Whether you’re in high school or college, get involved in clubs and activities. Participation in these co-curricular opportunities is a great way to supplement your in-class learning by developing or strengthening skills in areas like communication, negotiation, leadership, planning, budgeting, problem solving, and teamwork, among others. Another benefit to such participation, coming back to the second point, is that you have an opportunity here to begin developing meaningful relationships with fellow students as you learn and grow together around common interests, goals, and ideas. These relationships can translate into lifelong friendships and networking opportunities.

4) Set some SMART goals. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound. Specific, meaningful goal setting is so crucial to achieving the results you desire in any facet of life. And if they’re not written down, they don’t exist. Just saying to yourself, “Someday…” will never work, because, as one legendary band has taught us, someday never comes.

5) Don’t dismiss the jobs you’re doing now at your age as just “kid” jobs. What I mean by this is that, every job you hold is an opportunity to build new or strengthen existing skills and talents that can only enhance your future prospects. Don’t think because you’re working a fast food job, or cashiering in a grocery store, or stocking shelves right now that the experience will never mean anything ever again in a few years once you have your degree in hand and your first “real job”. Take your work seriously. Learn. You’re building skills in areas like customer service, problem solving, teamwork, communication, and technology, among others. And don’t forget about the networking value.

6) Keep up with news and trends in business and technology. Your next opportunity is waiting. Keep up with the business section of your local newspaper, seek out articles and content online, and maybe even get a magazine subscription or two.

7) Financial literacy. Learn all you can, and start now – credit cards, life insurance, long-term care insurance, retirement savings options, socking money away in an emergency fund, investments, loans, etc., etc. START NOW.

Follow this advice, and you’ll soon find that you’re becoming as badass as the tune “Green Onions”, the Booker T. & the MGs smash hit performed here by their friends, The Box Tops.

Here are some resources to help you get started:

Khan Academy

Launched by Sal Khan, a Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) –educated former hedge fund analyst, the Khan Academy is a free online education platform, with instruction by Khan himself, all by video. The site features courses in math, science and engineering, computing, arts and humanities, economics and finance, test prep, and more. Within the economics and finance course offerings, Khan has a subcategory devoted to entrepreneurship, featuring exclusive interviews and conversations he conducts with top entrepreneurs and business leaders.

TED Talks

Featuring brief talks via video by a plethora of business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, writers, philosophers, scientists, and subject matter experts of all kinds, TED bills itself as “Ideas worth spreading”.

From its Web site:

“TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 110 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.”

Credit Karma

A free resource allowing you to regularly monitor your credit via access to your credit reports, weekly updates to your credit scores, and alerts if something seems suspicious. Also features articles and tutorials on a wide array of personal finance subjects, and offers you customized recommendations on credit cards and loans based on your current scores. In the recent past, the site added a mechanism that allows you to directly dispute with the credit bureaus any negative listings on your credit reports with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Like a lot of young people, I had run into credit card trouble in college. I've managed to clean it all up since, and it's great to have a resource like Credit Karma at my disposal to help me stay on top of my credit. I have made use of the Direct Dispute tool recently to challenge three old negative listings on my credit reports, and have managed to have all of them removed, quickly and easily. I have also taken up a few of the customized recommendations on credit cards. I’ve had a Credit Karma account for a couple of years now, and I highly recommend it.

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