The most important question for young people to ask when looking for a job

In the second presidential debate on October 16th, the first question from the audience came from a 21-year-old college student named Jeremy, who asked both candidates:

“What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?”

Unfortunately, both candidates gave political answers to this young man, playing into the idea that this student’s success is somehow dependent on government policies or who is in the White House. Governor Romney promised he would continue the student loan policies – which have led to insurmountable debt for graduates and a 25 percent spike in tuition. He said he would make it easier to go to college – a system that is turning out thousands of graduates who have few marketable skills. Governor Romney even mentioned that half of last year’s graduates are unemployed or severely underemployed. Adding more to this number is not reassuring – it should be terrifying.

President Obama promised Jeremy that he would increase manufacturing and factory jobs. However, as a life coach, I don’t encounter many college graduates who identify working in a factory as their dream destination. Most want to avoid the life of their parents and follow paths that embrace their passions. They want to be part of a worthy cause and do something to change the world.

Yes, politicians get elected by telling us what they are going to “give” us but Jeremy needs to be reminded that “circumstances” will never assure him any kind of success. The economy can be robust and unemployment at zero and it will have little to do with his success. This is very much an inner game – not determined by external factors.

Now the election is behind us, I doubt that Jeremy is feeling any more reassured. The real question is – Jeremy, why would someone want to hire you? What have you done to bring value to the table for my company? What are your three strongest personal characteristics? What projects have you headed up in the last two years? What makes you remarkable?

Here’s what I would tell Jeremy:

1. Understand the need for “wisdom” as an addition to knowledge and information. You may have knowledge and degrees, but know that wisdom is the meaningful application of that knowledge.

2. Understand the changing models of work – thousands are finding legitimate work models and extraordinary income as consultants, contingency workers, independent contractors, freelancers and entrepreneurs. The old days of thinking the 8-5 job, with 2 weeks’ vacation and medical benefits is the only viable option are over.

3. Make your life international – meet new friends. Seek to understand those with different cultural experiences, different customs and different faiths.

4. Understand the power of relationships – the African concept of Ubuntu, where “they” become “we.” We cannot be fully human alone. Look for opportunities to connect and help others succeed.

5. Serve those around you – don’t wait till you graduate. If you want more money just figure out how to serve more people.

6. Have a pleasing personality – be generous with your resources, keep your word, smile easily, listen well and honor the uniqueness of each person you meet.

7. Know your gifts and talents – what makes you remarkable. Don’t rely on degrees alone to open doors of opportunity.

Yes, Jeremy, follow these seven steps and I can reassure you and your parents – with confidence – that you will be well able to sufficiently support yourself after you graduate. Follow those seven steps and you can be assured you will be able to follow your passion, create extraordinary income and to make the world a better place.

Hoping the economy gets better will have little impact on assuring your success. Making yourself better will guarantee your success.

The unemployment figures, the economy, or frankly – who is in the White House – are all small factors compared to being a person people know, love and trust. With that I’ll be one of many organizations wanting you on our team.