Thursday, 16 August 2012

I digress a little

Last night I listened to a radio programme on BBC Radio4 called 'What is the point of universities'. A number of young people were included, all but one of whom said they didn't care about the debt they would get into, they wanted to go to university. I really felt that their reasons were suspect and that they did not really have a clear long term view of the type of job they would be looking for when they finished or of the personal qualities they would need over and above actual qualifications.

The programme mentioned some of the courses offered by universities that were very narrowly focussed on one particular career path. A friend's daughter took this kind of course a few years ago. She didn't get particularly good results, and IMO probably shouldn't have gone to uni at all. She would have been better served by some kind of apprenticeship path or what used to be called a 'sandwich' course where work experience was an integral part of the qualification. Those courses seem to have completely disappeared whereas 30 or 40 years ago they were commonplace. She wasn't able to get a job in the very particular field she originally chose and I now hear she has gone back to uni to do a second degree in another more 'saleable' subject.

But, what really disappointed me was the total lack of entrepreneurial spirit displayed. Many people will have watched 'The Apprentice'. I think this programme now has a US equivalent, and what it aims to do is to put young people into real business situations and see how they stack up. I often find myself cringing at the lack of knowledge of how the world works they display and I know I wasn't like that in my early 20's.

The prospective university students and new graduates on last night's programme did not seem to be thinking about how they might start to pay off their student debt even before they left uni. Network marketing is an ideal way of earning some income as a student, over and above state help with fees and the 'bank of Mum and Dad'. Not only is there a vast choice of companies and products to suit every kind of person, but students have a ready made warm market - and one with an annual renewal system!

The attitude to network marketing seems to be markedly different in the UK compared to the USA. Across the pond, it seems pretty normal for people of all ages to consider this route to extra income. Here it is regarded with totally unnecessary suspicion and hostility. Most people don't even understand the difference between an illegal pyramid selling or Ponzi scheme and a perfectly legitimate affiliate or network business and they don't seem to WANT to try something other than being employed by someone else.

Of course I am trying to change attitudes, hearts and minds towards being in business for yourself, but last night's programme gave me more reason for despair than help. Maybe schools have to change the way that they teach subjects like science and even maths right from primary school level and use far more real-world examples in the problems they set students. And when it comes to career advice, it really is time to hold up people like Richard Branson and Alan Sugar not just as shining examples of success, but also as examples of people who were driven from an early age by the idea of working for themselves rather than lining someone else's pockets as an employee.

I am trying out a new way of finding customers for my networking businesses - I am writing to people who are advertising that they are looking for jobs on websites like Gumtree, trying to raise their consciousness about the possibilities of self-employment. I'm not having much success yet, but I will carry on. There must be some people out there with enough gumption to do something other than paying a weekly visit to the Job Centre and waiting for their next state benefit to arrive.

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