Friday we welcomed 1144 students to the College of Business in the largest single face-to-face class in the history of UCF. Our Welcome to the Majors event is part of our new Professional Development Curriculum, a series of courses designed to expand students’ horizons, help them make good career choices, and through practice, instill in them the confidence to know that they can compete with anyone anywhere.
Every year, we graduate about 2,100 students from the College of Business. As each of those students cross the stage, they need to have the answer to one question: “Why you, rather than one of the other 2,099 students graduating this year….What makes you the one?” Friday was about posing that question, giving students a framework for answering it and challenging each of them to engage with us in a variety of ways that will help ensure that they are the one: the one that gets the job, starts a company, changes the world, and gives back to their community.
In today’s world, academic excellence is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition to get you to the one. Knowledge is a huge asset, but ultimately it is what you do with that knowledge that counts. In translating knowledge into action, personal qualities and past experiences shape choices. For example, when I look to hire someone in the college, I look for people who believe deeply in the transformative power of higher education. If you don’t exhibit that quality, I don’t care what you know or what you’ve done in the past. I am not hiring you. You do not fit our culture and I doubt you will show sufficient motivation on the job to keep pace with my team. If you do exhibit that quality, I’m interested in the knowledge and past experiences that you can bring to the team that will enrich us and make us better.
To give the class a framework for answering our key question of the day, we asked students to fill out a survey about their intent to participate in a variety of activities as well as their career goals before they showed up on Friday. I then showed the students how I could get from 1144 to 1, in selecting a person to fill a lead financial analyst job with a consulting firm specializing in international NGO (nongovernmental organizations) projects. I noted that I needed a go-getter with strong financial skills, who had been in a variety of leadership positions, who could communicate with people from different cultures and understands grassroots community groups.
To identify go-getters, I noted that half the class didn’t complete the survey ahead of time. These students told me they weren’t in the game. I eliminated them. (This by the way is about the same percent of students who maintain a 3.0 GPA in the College…a reasonable threshold for determining academic proficiency in a chosen discipline. It would be another way of assessing if you were up to the job). Of the remaining half, about 190 wanted to be finance majors. Of those 190 finance majors, only nine aspired to multiple leadership positions while at UCF. Of those 9, just three planned to study abroad. Of those 3, two wanted to work with community groups and of those two, just one articulated a clear career objective.. Her name was Valeria Alaya….she got from 1144 to just 1.
Valeria Ayala got to the one by aspiring to a set of unique choices. If she follows through on these aspirations and combines it with academic excellence, her plan will set her apart. If she can tell her story in a compelling manner, it will land her a career like the one I described above. What will be your path to the one? There are literally hundreds of options at UCF that can help differentiate you by creating a unique combination of knowledge, qualities, and experiences that will provide the basis for achieving what you want to do with your one precious life.
Now is the time to plan, make choices and engage with us. Lonny and your Career Coach will insist on it. Engagement isn’t optional in the college. Take action. Get to the One.