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Writing on Computer

RES Blog Post

"Look for a safe secure job"...The most dangerous advice you can give a child?

"Today, the most dangerous advice you can give a child is

“Go to school, get good grades, and look for a safe secure job.”

That is old advice, and it is bad advice because if you want your child

to have a financially secure future, they can't play by the old set of rules.”

- Robert Kiyosaki

The message in this quote is something I have been thinking about for the last few years.  Is it old, bad advice? I think it’s fair to say that the business world is not as welcoming to new graduates as it used to be, and ‘safe, secure jobs’ are rare indeed.

When I graduated college in the late ’80s from Rutgers University, I was able to obtain a dozen or more interviews and ultimately had three job offers to choose from. I had majored in teaching, but no one seemed to think twice about my major or that I hadn't decided on a career path. I decided to take a job on Wall Street as a management trainee. It was a rotational program through various departments and included classes taught by department heads and field trips to the stock exchange, etc. It was an amazing first job and introduction to business that I took in stride. Just me being rewarded for my good grades and hard work.

When I was growing up, my parents had reinforced the value of an education and it stuck. A few years into the Wall Street job, I decided to get my MBA at NYU and I had the good fortune that my employer had unlimited tuition reimbursement, so no need to shell out the $75k for this degree. Getting my MBA part-time while working full-time wasn't easy, but at my core I believed that if you work hard and keep learning, you will be successful. After my MBA, I took classes at Cornell to learn more about Human Resources. The actual certification was not important to me; the point was to learn concepts that could help me directly with my work and I found it the most valuable part of my education.

Nowadays, I see recent graduates struggling to get interviews, burdened with a ridiculous amount of student debt, and questioning the value of their education. So, I guess my real question is: What type of education is meaningful and necessary to be successful? Historically, a college degree has been the minimum requirement for many jobs, but should it be? With LinkedIn and Coursera and other online platforms, can you learn more effectively through those skill- or job-specific type of courses?

Case in point: I find many recent graduates interested in fintech, but when you ask for their reasons why they think they would be a good fit, they can't articulate or point to any relevant internships or classes that would lead them to that career choice. Perhaps they read an article about it being a growth area and an industry where you are compensated handsomely, but the glaring fact is that they don't have any meaningful exposure to fintech. Would fintech companies be more interested in these candidates if they were doing some online coursework in fintech areas? Yes, I think they would!

Today I run my own executive search firm. When I hire someone, I look for four core attributes: grit, resourcefulness, coachability, and enthusiasm for learning. I generally prefer people who do not have vast agency recruiting experience, because I like to train them in our core values and our own particular processes, and think it’s somewhat easier when you start with a clean slate. However, candidates who have been hiring managers for companies or corporations have an advantage, because they have the client’s perspective, which is invaluable. Based on my broad hiring criteria, you would think that my staff would be a mix of people with varying educational backgrounds, but the truth is they all have their degrees and impressive educational backgrounds, including Cornell, Duke, NYU, etc. I wonder, is that a coincidence?

So, the questions are (and I would love to hear opinions on this):

  • Does the "Go to school, get good grades, and look for a safe secure job" advice set up today’s youth for disappointment? If not, what are some possible solutions?

  • Is a bachelor’s degree a fair minimum criterion or would varied courses without a degree be as good, if not better?

  •  What attributes are "must haves" across different roles?

About the Author

Elisa Sheftic is currently the President and Managing Partner of Right Executive Search, LLC. Her main area of expertise is placing mid to C-level professionals in the Financial Technology (Fintech) and Financial Services industries. She is also responsible for all aspects of sourcing strategy development, client service, operations, and administration.

Prior to starting her own firm, Elisa was a Partner and Senior Managing Director for The Patton Group LLC, a national search organization, where she managed the New York/New Jersey office. Previously, she was employed with R&L Solutions, a boutique Executive Search firm in the Tri-State area. Additional experience includes Associate Director positions at Quellos (Blackrock) and Bear Stearns as well as tenures in the Private Client divisions at Salomon Brothers and Morgan Stanley.

She received her BA from Rutgers University and received her MBA from New York University's Leonard N. Stern School of Business, with a concentration in Finance/Marketing, in 1995. Elisa completed her post-graduate studies in Human Resources at Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Elisa's expertise is in PROACTIVELY SOURCING & ACTIVELY CONNECTING with talent. Email Elisa at:

Elisa Sheftic is the President and Managing Partner of Right Executive Search, LLC. Her expertise is placing mid- to C-level executives in the Financial Technology (fintech) and Financial Services industries. She communicates with Human Resources, Hiring Managers, and candidates on a daily basis and offers insights to clients and candidates on recruiting best practices. Elisa received her MBA from New York University and completed her HR post-graduate studies at Cornell University.

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