Hile Rutledge
Trainer, author

Hile Rutledge

CEO and owner of OKA (Otto Kroeger Associates), a training and consulting firm specializing in leadership and team development.

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What, not where

Q: The Wall Street Journal says big U.S. companies, when hiring for entry-level jobs, are picking bachelors' degree graduates of big state universities over Ivy Leaguers and other grads of more elite schools. Recruiters said they need people with practical skills. Would you take the same approach? Do you think your school prepared you well for whichever form of success you sought? In the long run, does it matter what you studied in college, and where you went?


The most common element in the universe is hydrogen. The square root of 64 is 8. You should not end a sentence with a preposition. Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. It turns out these things are as true at the community college as they are in the Ivy League schools -- but reading, talking and learning about them costs a whole lot less.

As a nation, we stress over an unemployment rate of nearly 10 percent, but if we look at this unemployment rate through the lens of educational level, we see the real story. Among college graduates, the unemployment rate is under 5 percent. Job stability and vocational empowerment, in 21st century America, require a college education.

But do you need to go to the most expensive college you can afford? Do you need to go to the biggest, most prestigious or most selective college you can to be vocationally successful? Clearly not.

I've been an employer for 20 years. What employers want are workers who will take on the responsibility of their role, making the organization's problems their own, self-motivate and learn to solve the organization's problems, assuming accountability for their decisions. Work ethic and the ability to learn and communicate are tremendously important. Where you learned these skills is not.

The education that pays the greatest return, therefore, is the education earned by someone who takes control of her or his learning, remains curious and open, works with seriousness and focus to learn new things and then works just as hard to apply these learnings -- to truly change their ideas, abilities and behaviors.

Students owning their own development and approaching their own learning with this kind of intensity can be found at any school -- from the halls of Harvard to your local community college. It is this drive toward self-actualization that will distinguish someone professionally.

By Hile Rutledge  |  September 27, 2010; 4:04 PM ET  | Category:  Education and success Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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