Paradigm. It is something we tend to revisit often. Know the lens you see things through, appreciate how and why others see things the way they do. Timeless really. We think about it with generational communications, in interviewer/interviewee scenarios, client relationships, professional and personal relationships, even in how one frames a picture. Yet it was a conversation with a recent college graduate that is starting his first “real job” that really drove home the lesson of how things change depending on one’s paradigm.
It has been one of the things I have enjoyed most over the years, working with college students and/or recent graduates as they embark on their professional journey. Fortunately it is something I have gotten the chance to do for close to 20 years now, both formally when teaching, and now on a volunteer and professional basis. We do seminars and one-on-one coaching, resume writing, interview training, and just general professional counseling and guidance for various campus organizations and individuals. Fun stuff really – helps keep us sharp and timely – generations change – we have to keep up.
So what did we learn – well the fact that the “smarter” or “savvier” recent graduates were aware enough to stop smoking pot back in February or March to ensure they were ready for company drug testing was reassuring…relatively speaking. An eye opener, but at least made us realize that some folks are, well somewhat aware of the “real world”. Also, it is a theme we have seen for years, and it does not seem to be getting any better, the lack of “financial education” in our society is staggering. Most, not all, but certainly the vast majority of youth have no idea how things like 401(k)’s, IRA’s, interest, dividends, debt, credit, or all of the other myriad of things work in the real world. We as a society continue to produce woefully unprepared sheep for financial slaughter. It is amazing anyone survives…financially speaking.
And it was midway through the conversation when he asked what a 401(k) was and how it worked. While discussing 401(k) enrollment and before tax and after tax earnings that it happened…someone’s entire value system as a voter changed. They asked, so we went down the political road for a few minutes, nothing ideological, just a very rational chat on a very general level, but the reality dawned on a 22-year-old – he was now a producer and he wanted to hang onto what he will be earning. It was not the idea that anyone was going to be taking from him, we all get it, there is a degree of reality – taxes serve a purpose. What struck him was the amount. The starting salary was not nearly as impressive as it seemed, and that the amount very possibly will be more as his earnings grow, left him a bit perturbed.
I asked him what he did his freshman year, back in November 2008 on election day – “we all voted then got some beer and watched the speech, we thought it was pretty cool”. I totally agreed – it was one of those where were you when historical moments – pretty cool indeed – really was. I think I was even having a cocktail that night. I then asked him how he saw things for this coming November – “a lot different than I did then”. I welcomed him to the start of his professional career; he is now a producer. Paradigm is everything.