“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day, you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls — family, health, friends, integrity — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered. And once you truly understand the lesson of the five balls, you will have beginnings of balance in your life.”
– James Patterson, Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas
Let’s face it, students: We are at University to make more money once we graduate. We know it, our lecturers know it, our parents know it and everybody else knows it. And there’s a good reason why we want to enter the glitzy corporate world with the promises of bonuses and the kudos that comes with the territory.
Nobody can ignore the financial facts. Graduates earn more money those who didn’t attend University. It has been reported that, on average, graduates will be £160,000 richer than non-graduates. This equates to an additional £3,600 a year. Who wouldn’t say ‘no’ to that?
And so each year, another 20,000 graduates enter the job market in the hope of progressing into a well paying career. And therein lies the key problem.
The day work becomes our whole life, is the day we need to assess what is really valuable in our lives. I don’t know about you, but to me, my relationships are the single most important thing in the world.
I can always depend on my loving family. I adore spending quality time with my girlfriend, I find it refreshing to chill with my best friends and I enjoy catching up with associates. Without these pleasures in my life, it wouldn’t matter to me if I was earning £100,000 more than the next guy.
That’s an important point that I would like to stress. I sincerely believe that for many of us, our perception of ‘success’ is too focused on materialising our career objectives and not enough on the people around us in our lives.
Placing ‘work’ above our relationships is a fools’ game. Even in a purely financial context, you would be better to focus on relationships than the annual salary that you are aiming for upon graduation.
For instance, paraphrasing Dale Carnegie, if you were stone broke but had 100 friends who you know would each give you £50 to help put you back on your feet, then you would be rich by student standards! Of course, it is a slightly apocryphal anecdote but the theory remains. Relationships > money.
Herb Kelleher, co-founder of the very successful and distinguished Southwest Airlines, states that ‘the business of business is people, now and forever’. This theory, applied in a graduate-job context, suggests that if you focus on building relationships (with colleagues, your superiors and your customers) then the financial rewards will follow (promotions, doors opening, bonuses for delivering excellent service etc). Bearing this in mind would surely do us a world of good.
As a student, my extra-curricular activities led me to being awarded 2 grants totaling up to £3,000 to help kick start a small business. This would never had happened had I not networked vigorously with people who had the resources to help me.
A less fancy example perhaps is this: through building up my list of contacts, I was able to help sell two laptops belonging to my friend to other students. I got a mate’s rate commission of £200; which more than pays for a fancy meal at a restaurant and some fancy new Lacoste sneakers :).
Yes, as students we care deeply about the extra money that our hard earned degree promises us. But, it pays to remember that the real value lies in our skill of building professional relationships and in improving our personal relationships.
Lastly, our end game shouldn’t be to earn as much money upon graduation as possible. But rather, a more healthy approach is to find a balance. There are some things in life, after-all, which money can’t buy.
Written by Andi Hutchinson