Gallup: A prestigious college isn’t a clear ticket to career happiness or personal fulfillment.

collegesThe latest shoe to drop in the growing notion that a college education may not be all it’s cracked up to be comes in the form of a Gallup survey released this month that reveals that attending a prestigious institution of higher learning won’t make a person any happier in life or work when compared to graduating from a less selective one.

The Gallup survey of nearly 30,000 college graduates in all age groups, which was conducted in concert with researchers from Purdue University, asked respondents how they were doing in life across a range of factors such as income and “engagement” in their jobs.

Interestingly, the Gallup research was advocated by former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, now the president of Purdue University, who reported to The Wall Street Journal that he had encountered a lack of benchmarked data to measure the value of a college degree.

“There is a lot we don’t know about higher education, and there is a sense it’s skating on its reputation,” Mr. Daniels remarked.  “We needed to know with more rigor how well the experience is serving people.”

The resulting survey conducted by the Gallup organization found that fewer than 40% of the college graduates surveyed feel “engaged at work” — in that they enjoy what they do on a daily basis and are intellectually and emotionally connected to their work.

An even lower percentage – just 11% – thought of themselves as “thriving” in all of the major aspects of their lives such as financial stability, having a strong social network, and feeling a sense of purpose.

And how do graduates of the most “selective” institutions fare against others?  According to Gallup, there’s no discernable difference at all.

That is correct:  The survey found that graduating from a Top 100 school has no bearing on the level of future happiness or fulfillment in work or in life.

college debtWhat does have a big impact — in a negative way — is college debt.  Only about 2% of respondents who reported between $20,000 and $40,000 in student loan debt reported that they are “thriving.”

On the positive side of the ledger, what does seem to correlate with greater happiness and fulfillment is having had the experience of a professor take an interest in the student.  These teachers served as a mentor or helped make the learning experience exciting for the student.

The Gallup survey found that those kinds of experiences tend to translate into more optimism, curiosity and engagement in later life and careers — leading to greater fulfillment.

I have immediate family members who have attended all types of higher educational institutions — from Ivy League schools and “New Ivies” to private colleges, public universities and even community colleges.  Time and again, I’ve seen this phenomenon play out just as the Gallup survey suggests.

The fact is … broadly speaking, American higher education is quite good.  One can receive a good education almost anywhere, provided a student studies hard and takes advantage of the opportunities that are available (internships, work-study programs, exchange programs and and so forth).

It wasn’t so true a generation ago.  Back then, the prestigious schools had clear advantages in terms of their top educational staffs, great libraries, and worldwide connections in the educational and business communities.

Today, thanks to the Internet, distance learning and more people with PhDs, even the less selective schools have quality staffing, access to unlimited “virtual” library resources, and similarly stronger connections worldwide.

There continues to be a difference between the prestigious schools and the rest of the pack, of course.  At a place like Amherst or Williams, essentially all of the students are smart as a whip and highly motivated, whereas that’s not going to be the case at a state university.

But at all of the schools, the best students are actually very similar across the board … and they have similar opportunities available to apply to their advantage.

On top of this, there are many fields of study where the “best” education you can get isn’t going to be at an Ivy League school.  Think about the ag degrees at Iowa State University (Ames) or the structural engineering coursework at the Missouri University of Science & Technology (Rolla) as just two examples.

Bottom line, here’s where things stand:  If students want to learn and are willing to study hard … they can get a good education at pretty much any school they choose to attend in America.  And it will lead to a fulfilling professional and personal life later.  “Prestige” has very little to do with it.

HR managers’ views of new college grad hires: Curmudgeonly … or canaries in the coal mine?

Lack of professionalism among new hiresAs those of us in the world of business begin to add years (or decades) to our tenure, it becomes easier than ever to look at the younger crop of workers coming onstream and see traits that don’t align with our worldview about what is acceptable, “SFW” behavior.

Perhaps we’re too set in our ways. Maybe we’re not being flexible enough or making a sufficient effort to keep an open mind about proper office professionalism and etiquette.

But maybe we’re not offbase after all:  A new survey of HR professionals suggests that others have also noticed — and they’re not very forgiving, either.

In fact, this survey of ~400 human resources managers, which was conducted by the Center for Professional Excellence at York College, found that opinions of recent college graduates in the workforce have grown more negative over the past five years.  (The survey is conducted annually.)

When asked about their experiences in recruiting and hiring recent college graduates, these HR managers were pretty unsparing in their criticism. Here are some of the opinions the survey uncovered:

  • More than one-third of HR respondents felt that the level of professionalism among new college-educated employees has worsened over the past five years.
  • Nearly half believe that the work ethic of new employees is worse today than before.
  • More than half of the respondents feel that new workers come into the workforce with an unrealistic air of entitlement.

What are some of the specific areas where HR managers see new hires failing to measure up? These were the most prevalent mentions in the York survey:

  • Appropriate appearance and dress
  • Punctuality and workplace attendance
  • Attentiveness
  • Staying on-task through to completion of assignments
  • Honesty

And that’s not all.

The human resources professionals in this survey reported that younger employees “appear arrogant” during the hiring process and once they come on the job.

Moreover, these HR professionals contend that new employees aren’t taking proper cues from older, more established workers in the office, but instead from their peers and friends.

A manifestation of this is the predilection to text co-workers rather than to communicate via e-mail messages, or through personal conversations and interfaces.

The basic problem with the attitudes of new company hires was pointed out by Deborah Ricker, director of the Center for Professional Excellence: “Acceptable behavior among peers is not necessarily acceptable among coworkers and superiors.”

Amen to that.

[Click here if you’re interested in downloading a full summary of the 2013 Professionalism in the Workplace survey results.]

Most of us can probably think of one or two examples of employees who personify many of the issues brought up by the HR managers in the York survey.

One example that comes to my mind from our own office’s experience was a young worker who decided she needed to take short naps during her lunch periods.

Nothing really wrong with that, except … she did so by lying down on the floor next to her desk — which was directly behind another worker’s cubicle. Imagine trying to do your work while having someone snoozing (snoring) at your feet!

If you have similar anecdotes about some of the younger hires in your office, feel free to leave a comment. It’ll be good for a chuckle or two – even if there’s an underlying context that’s way sober.

Adult Children Today: Dependency Redefined

Adult kids financially dependent on their parentsThose of us with children who are recent college graduates might wonder if we’re the only ones continuing to support them financially in a big way.

It turns out, we’re far from alone. In fact, a recent consumer survey by Vibrant Nation, an online community focusing on Baby Boomer women, finds that parents are supporting their adult kids (defined as up to age 30) in all sorts of ways:

 Paying for cellphone service: ~60% of parents are supporting
 Paying for insurance: ~53%
 Paying for rent: ~39%
 Paying for non-school related trips and travel: ~38%
 Paying for clothing: ~36%
 Paying for cars and computers: ~33%

Looking down this list, it’s no wonder so many “empty nesters” feel like their child-raising years are far from over!

[But thank goodness for small favors: At least it’s only a minority of parents who are buying their adult kids automobiles and computers.]

Thinking back ~35 years ago when I finished my college studies, there wasn’t one thing on the list above that my parents covered for me (although they were helpful when it came to loaning me money for the down payment on my first home purchase — barely three years out of school).

So at first blush, it’s quite startling to see these numbers. Then again, considering the ugly employment situation for today’s recent college graduates, perhaps it’s not so surprising after all.

And there’s another interesting twist to the “new dependency” as well. In the past, once adult children left home – financially as well as physically – it was much easier for them to break the ties of parental influence and control. I don’t recall asking my folks for their opinion about much of anything in those years following school.

Today, with kids so financially dependent on their parents for pretty much anything of consequence, it’s much easier for parents to exert that influence.

Let’s just say, our opinions carry a lot more weight.

How about you? In what ways are you continuing to support your adult kids? And is there a downside?