What’s Your Degree Worth? Develop a Saleable Skill

“Sweat equity is the most valuable equity there is. Know your business and industry better than anyone else in the world. Love what you do or don’t do it.”
– Mark Cuban

 “Where are all the jobs?” is a phrase I heard a lot in the news, from peers, and read in the paper. It seemed as though many students had expected to graduate university with a guaranteed job on the other side; isn’t that the formula?

Let’s  look at the ‘student expectation’: it is a multi step process, but totally linear (supposedly), and totally reliable (supposedly). It starts with High School. You do well in high school (or as well as you can), and then you go to university (the best you can get in to). At University you do very well, get great grades, maybe throw in few internships/get involved on campus (if you feel like it), then graduate. Once you graduate, you find a job.

This is what our parents told us, this is what their parents told them, and thus the cycle goes. However, that linear process is rapidly becoming unstable, unreliable and unpredictable. Many students are graduating university to find nothing on the other side – no jobs, no prospects, and no future.

Why? I think there is a pretty basic explanation: as my grandmother used to say, “they have no saleable skills.” It’s great if you love English literature, Roman history, or country music – but these topics make for dangerous majors. When you are picking you path in life, it is one thing to choose something you love (which I am all for), but you need to make sure it is something people will actually pay for.

A saleable skill is something that a company will pay for because it adds value to them. Your being enamoured with Shakespeare is not going to increase their bottom line – your understanding of operational structure just might.

Whatever you end up pursing at University, ask yourself the acid test question: am I developing a skill that others would pay for? Now, I’m not recommending that you chase money, follow fads, or follow the crowd, but having a skill that is saleable will make your degree much more robust down the line. And as for your love of Shakespeare, start a book club at the office.

Blair Livingston


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