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The Work Ethic of the Modern Student

Written by Brett McKay

The New York Times has an interesting article about the new work ethic of modern college students. It was written by Joanne B. Ciulla, a professor the University of Richmond. Basically, Professor Ciulla writes how she has noticed the traditional Prostestant work ethic, with it’s focus on work as a means for self improvement, being eschewed for a new work ethic that just focuses on money. She then goes on to describe behavior by college students that demonstrates this new set of values.

Here are some of the traits that Professor Ciulla has noticed:

Entitled to a do-over

I noticed this all the time when I was in undergrad. If kids didn’t get a good grade on a paper or test, they would ask if they could do it again. Professor Ciulla notes that the students who make this request aren’t failing but want to push their grade up to an A- or a B.

The problem with this attitude is that in the working world, you often don’t get a chance for a do-over. In today’s cut throat economy, employers demand quality and they demand it fast. Unfortunately, many college professors are caving into these requests by students. Consequently, many students leave school thinking they’ll get a do-over in grad school or on the job.

Clock Punching

Professor Ciulla notes that many students feel they deserve a higher grade just because they put so much time into a test or paper. I noticed this as well when I was an undergrad. Here’s the deal: in the real world, your employer doesn’t care how much time you put into a project. If it sucks, the company loses money. Effort doesn’t count on the job, results do.

Overblown egos

My generation grew up during the age of self esteem. Ever since elementary school, we’ve been told we’re special and that we can do anything in the world. Kids get prizes even if they come in last place, just so no one gets their feelings hurt. On top of that is the grade inflation that runs rampant in colleges now.

As a result, many young students have a misled idea of how their work stacks up against others. When they land their first job and get reamed for a lousy performance, young people often suffer from a spat of cognitive dissonance. Their whole life they were told they were awesome. Now, all of a sudden they’re told their work sucks. It doesn’t make sense to them.

In the real world, there are losers. It’s too bad that many young people have to learn this during their first job.

What can be done?

First, we can dump the whole self esteem thing. Of course we should teach children the value of having a good self image. A person with a healthy self image values themselves, but recognizes there’s room for improvement. People with high self esteem often are oblivious to the fact that they can improve.

Second, schools need to stop inflating grades. This is going to be a tough one. Because our system of higher education has turned into a business with students and parents as consumers, college deans, in pursuit of turning a profit, cave into consumer demand, ie higher grades. I think if anything is to be done, parents will have to demand that colleges stop inflating grades.

What do you all think? Is our society preparing young people adequately for the working world? If not, what can be done to prepare them?

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How To Leave The Perfect Voicemail

Written by Brett McKay

I’m not a big fan of voicemail. I don’t mind leaving voicemail messages; I just hate having to listen to them. For some strange reason when people know their voice is being recorded, their brain short circuits. What normally would take 30 seconds to say, now takes 2 minutes.


I don’t mind it so much for people I know. I have to deal with them on a daily basis, so I can’t hold voicemail grudges against them. However, if someone cold calls me or it’s just an acquaintance that calls, a crappy voicemail annoys me and leaves a bad impression.

I know. It’s superficial, but I’m human. But a prospective employer or client is also human, so there’s a good chance that crappy, unclear, and long voicemails annoy them too.

So, for your consideration, here are 8 tips to help you leave the perfect voicemail and, consequently, a good impression.

  • State your name first. You would think this would be so basic that it shouldn’t even be mentioned. However, I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten voicemails where people go on and on and I don’t even know who’s talking to me until the very end. Pretty annoying.
  • State the purpose of your call. In as few words as possible, state why you’re calling. Is it in regards to an interview appointment? Are you following up on a previous meeting?
  • Find some common ground. If you’re cold calling someone, your voicemail is your 30 second chance to make a connection and leave a good impression. One of the best ways to make a connection in that short amount of time is mentioning a mutual acquaintance. You could also mention a shared affiliation with an organization.
  • Be brief. Don’t make you listener resent you by leaving 5 minute long messages. People are busy. Listening to 5 minute phone messages is not on the top of their priorities.
  • Leave a specific request. What do you want your listener to do? Sure, you want them to call you back, but why? To answer a question? To set up an appointment? People will appreciate it if you give them specific actions for their call back. That way they’ll know they won’t be wasting a lot of time on the call back trying to figure out what you want.
  • Leave your contact info slowly and clearly. You’ve gotten this far, don’t screw it up by muddling the very information that will allow your listener to get back to you. Go slow and be clear.
  • Consider leaving your e-mail in addition to your phone number. People like choices. Some people like to have conversations on the phone, while others prefer communicating through e-mail. You don’t know what kind of person your listener will be, so leave the option on the table. For many, e-mail correspondence is less threatening and might actually encourage them to reach out to you.
  • Be Brief. Did I mention be brief? Yeah? Make sure to do it.

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How To Jump Start Your Car

Written by Brett McKay

You jump into the car and turn the key. Nothing happens. You look up at the dome light and notice it’s on the “on” position. Doh! You left the dome light on all night and now your battery is dead. How many times has this happened to you?

Are you afraid of trying to jump start you car because you think you’ll blow your car up? In this post, I’ll give a step-by-step guide on how to jump start a dead battery so you won’t be left hanging next time you leave your car lights on.

  1. Always carry jumper cables with you in the car. You never know when you’ll need them or when someone else will need them.
  2. Make sure both cars are turned off.
  3. Connect one end of the red (positive) jumper cable to the positive terminal on the stalled battery.
  4. Then connect the other red (positive) cable clamp to the positive terminal of the good battery.
  5. Connect one end of the black (negative) jumper cable to the negative terminal of the good battery.
  6. Then connect the other black (negative) cable to a clean, unpainted metal surface under disabled car’s hood. Do not connect negative cable to the negative terminal of the dead battery, unless you want to see some sparks and possibly an explosion.
  7. Start the car that’s doing the jumping, and allow it to run for about 2 to 3 minutes before starting the dead car.
  8. Remove cables in reverse order.
  9. Keep jumped car running for at least 30 minutes to give the battery sufficient time to recharge itself.