Ms McCallum and I have recently returned from a trip to the centre of the universe, Toronto, where we attended the National Association for College Admission Counselling conference. This was the first year that the annual NACAC conference was held outside of the United States and, despite the road construction seemingly around every corner of the city, Toronto showed itself off with great panache.
Since we were in Toronto, our Advancement Office arranged for a lunch with some of our recent grads studying in the Toronto area. We were able to visit with 11 of those grads attending the University of Toronto and Ryerson University. We heard some great stories about their first weeks on campus such as how to use your elbows to make sure you get to the front of the lecture theatre for many of the first year classes at the U of T and an eight hour journalism class at Ryerson that began in a classroom, moved to the streets of Toronto to gather interviews, and returned to a simulated news room where students had to write an article by the appointed deadline.
I was able to visit the campuses of four universities while I was there and will write about them in future blogs, but wanted to begin by talking about the key note speaker at the conference, Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the New York Times and author of The World is Flat. Friedman has developed a reputation as a wide-ranging thinker on foreign affairs and especially the topics of globalization and the environment, so it was appropriate that he be the one to address this first conference of a US-based counselors and educators organization on foreign soil.
Friedman spoke about the notion of how the connected world he had talked about in The World is Flat is now hyper connected. In preparing for his talk, he looked at the index of his book to discover that he hadn’t even mentioned Facebook, Twitter, or 3G networks. They all have become ascendant in the seven years since the book was published. In the past, columnists like him would have had maybe seven other writers who were writing on the same topic and would be considered competitors. Now with the advent of blogs, columnists are competing with as many as 70 million other writers. When he first graduated from university, he had to find a job. Graduates today are more likely to have to invent a job.
Friedman had some great advice for those new graduates. Here are some of the highlights:
- Identify your own unique value contribution. You should all be able to define that little extra you can contribute to any situation at university or at work.
- Graduates need to be innovation ready not just college ready.
- Self-motivation is so important in a world where there is so much to grab on to.
- Your passion quotient and curiosity quotient should be greater than your intelligence quotient. It’s not enough to be smart. You need to be curious and passionate as well.
- Be relentlessly entrepreneurial.
- Think like someone running a start up in Silicon Valley and live life in Beta: not perfected and always a work in progress.