I’ve just realised that as well as the new academic year for PhD programs, it’s also graduate intake season in the world of proper jobs, and thus a new generation of CT readers will be entering the workforce. And thus, my “Advice to a Young Person”. I only actually have one tip.
Basically it’s this. If you are a young man or woman of fair-to-middling ability, or even a borderline dullard, but you want to get a reputation as an uncommonly bright and perspicacious thinker, it’s really not that hard to do. The secret weapon is this: take an interest in what happens in other countries.
It’s really quite unusual to find an important issue on which international comparisons aren’t worth knowing about. Even in situations which look purely domestic, you can often get an entirely new perspective on things by looking at your fundamental assumptions in the light of what happens overseas. There are few sights sweeter than the look on someone’s face after they’ve confidently proclaimed something to be impossible, only to be informed that they’ve been doing things that way in Australia for the last twenty years.
It’s also a great way to generate ideas; it’s both easier than coming up with something yourself, and more likely to succeed, to plagiarise something that’s already worked well in a different time zone. So few people bother to keep up with the international news that one doesn’t even need to be an expert in these things; simply reading the relevant pages of your daily newspaper will probably do, whereas reading the superficially more “relevant” domestic or business pages will usually just tell you a load of crap you know already, and tell it wrong.
So my advice to a young businessperson is to save ten minutes a day by not reading the domestic news, and spend them on reading the international news properly. Within six months of the graduate program you’ll see I’m right, not least because at least once or twice you’ll quite likely be asked to prepared an analysis of international comparisons by a senior executive who got where he is by following my method.
PS: another great tip is never put question marks on your Powerpoint slides, it always looks really weak.