What Should I Study At Uni?

I was copied in on this interesting email written by my uncle, a 30-year veteran of the oil industry, who was asked by an ambitious young Indonesian about university courses. This is a different perspective to what most of us are taught.

What advice would you give if asked the same question?

A 23 year old Indonesian, whom I have known since high school is studying psychology at a Bandung university in the Indonesian language medium.

The question I was asked was “what to study at uni?”

What to study for future work?

– Modern technology moves faster than the education system can develop professional qualifications.

– Therefore, an educational qualification is by definition already out date with what the market needs.

– Get away from studying in Indonesian as fast as possible; you must do your studies and research in English. People are taught in the Bahasa Indonesia medium to keep them stuck in a job rut from which they cannot escape. We live in a multi polar world, dominated by English. (Urgently work to get your English skills to the point that you can write proper English.)

– We are told that the purpose of education is produce impart enlightenment and knowledge. This is not 100% true,

The real purpose of education is to benefit “the system” (i.e. not to benefit individual people)
– 1] to produce obedient workers who will do boring jobs without complaining;
– 2] to make people greedy for material objects so they will go into debt (and therefore have to keep working within the economic system;
– 3] to limit people’s ability to think for themselves
– 4] to make sure that people follow official policies and beliefs without thinking about “why”

– It take far too long to learn anything useful in university; when you want to learn about something you don’t understand, get 10 books on the topic and read them thoroughly.
– Learning is life long. Set your own learning agenda. Carry books on your phone and read them when you have moments of free time.
– You can learn new information 10 times faster from the printed word than you can from watching a video.

– Be polite and respectful toward the system and the people within it – Try to to look at your job, your employer and the wider world from a high level viewpoint
– Look for job assignments which are mentally stimulating
– Continually ask questions , privately to yourself and ask others who know stuff that you don’t.
– Treat your boss and your employer as a customer. Always try to give your customers better service than they expect. Willingly propose and take on assignments and responsibilities (within reason.)
– Openly admit your mistakes.
– Aim to become a leader, not a follower. Leaders take the blame for things that go wrong and quietly give their boss and their coworkers credit for things that go well.
– Leaders and those from a high class are polite and considerate to ALL people, including those of lower status.
– Being late is wasting people’s time and is therefore rude and inconsiderate towards other people. True leaders are very careful to not be late.
– Leaders never consider people working at the same level as competitors, try to help everybody to do their job better.
– Your ego will not help you get on in life, keep your ego in your pocket
– Never watch TV, it makes your mind dull and accepting of ideas which are good for the system but not good for you

– Remember that you are looking for work, not looking for employment. Employees are owned by their employers. People who find work are free agents, doing an assignment for a client.  When an assignment is done, they go find more work with other customers.
– When your job gets boring and you feel that you are not learning anything new, QUIT! God only gave us one life to live. If you have built up your contacts, you should already have some other work assignments in mind.
– Look for work where you can move around and meet senior people in government and industry. (Try to hang out with people who are smarter and more knowledgeable than you. Don’t waste time with average people who have an average worldview.)
– Use your phone to record important interviews and phone conversations. When playing them back later, you can discover your poor listening skills. People who don’t listen properly are bad
mannered wasters of other people’s time.
– Write down and remember what customers and senior people in industry told you they need. Too often we *think*  we understand what people are telling us; then later we find that our understanding was wrong.
– When you meet senior people socially, ask them leading questions about their job concerns. (In Indonesia, senior people often feel that they are surrounded by beggars. If you come along and ask intelligent questions, you a like a breath of fresh air)
– Try to spend your work time and social time in multi national environments, where there is a wide mix of nationalities.
– Those who traveland work in foreign countries have a broader worldview than the local native people in that country.
– Focus on industries that are high up the economic food chain (i.e. industries that generate big money like banking, finance, oil, mining, property, projects.) Be careful that a lot of Asian manufacturing, travel and hospitality business is not so profitable.
– Find excuses to set up meetings or interviews with senior managers to learn what concerns them.
– If you are jobless and urgently need to build up your contacts of senior people in industry, approach a local industry magazine and offer to work as a no-pay freelancer writer.
– Senior managers will tell you that a big limit to business growth is a shortage of competent, responsible people who can be trusted to run parts of the business. i.e. your ability to see job opportunities is limited by your mentality and lack of experience, both of which you can rectify.