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Peter Cappelli of The Wall Street Journal investigates how the job market has changed over time for college graduates. While the end goal for students and their parents has always been securing a job, Capelli argues that the path to this goal is ever-changing. Capelli asserts that many students are pressured to choose a career path prematurely due to the high costs of college and setbacks that come from changing majors. As in the tech bust of the early 2000’s, many students who believe that they are in a “hot” degree program may actually struggle to secure a job if the market shifts. Cappelli stresses the importance of evaluating the entire package of college in order to make decisions that most benefit the student and simultaneously generate the most aptitude to finding a job. For instance, not everyone may be cut out for a specialized degree, and despite the negative stimulus associated with liberal arts degrees, a practical degree which involves education in multiple areas may actually give the student the most options out of college. This is especially important since the job market is unpredictable. Further, most employers will value previous work experience over pure academic involvement. Thus, general aptitude may be more important than specialization.

Many aspects of IMT are incorporated into Cappelli’s argument. His approach to college choices involves a best value approach. For many students and their parents, this can help to decrease risk of unemployment upon graduation. Capelli encourages students to perform inner reflection in order to guide their decisions rather than respond to outside pressure to select a “hot” career path. This could ultimately lead to disappointment in the fluctuating job market; therefore, objectivity is key. In terms of work experience, Capelli’s argument agrees with the importance of expertise. Previous employment in a related field helps the employer to invest in the student because they have a higher level of expertise than the student with sole academic involvement.



Why Focusing Too Narrowly in College Could Backfire – Peter Cappelli – The Wall Street Journal – November 15, 2013 – Retrieved from

Comments (7)

  1. Mia Wright


    I can definitely relate to this article as a Senior who is graduating in May. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about job opportunities after graduation. Secondary education is definitely increasing in frequency and I think this also relates to expertise. Expertise is clearly important for any person that chooses a specific career path. Without expertise there is a lack of credibility. I definitely agree that early work experience is more valuable than an academic history.

  2. Stephen Phelps


    This is a fascinating article that is a strong representation of what is truly occurring within college these days. It has been interesting to observe how quickly the market continues to shift, especially in relation to the jobs that are available today. It is interesting to see how the need for a degree must be directly aligned with a career choice. Furthermore, students now must have both the right degree but more importantly they need to have the experience towards their selected career. The IMT principle that is most evident in this article to me is the theory of initial conditions allowing for only one final outcome. By providing more information to students today they are better prepared to make the best decisions for their futures.

  3. D.J. Burton


    This attempt to deter students from having highly focused skills seems to align well with the KSM/IMT ideal that specialized and detailed information often obscures the big picture. If students take more well rounded academic paths, however, they will be privy to a wide range of both knowledge and paradigms. Given this, when compared to the over focused and detail oriented student, the well rounded student will have superior ability to observe the multiple facets of life and attain a more complete understanding.

  4. Steven Sifferman


    Focusing on a career where one can find fulfillment should be everyone’s goal coming into college. While it may seem daunting looking for jobs that don’t specify a liberal arts degree, many of the analysis techniques learned in a diverse academic curriculum can be beneficial in the changing business landscape. However, if one goes down the road of a liberal arts degree, I believe that one should take several STEM courses as technology will be integral in the future of the global economy.

  5. Teja Reddy


    Students are in wrong environment which encourages to choose career path which makes money at end, students should never select their path depending upon trend and salary, instead they should choose the subjects which they like and try to excel in them. All concepts like influence, control, molecule, best value etc can be identified in this article.

  6. Saransh Noel Prasad


    More than the Best Value Approach for determining the right degree, another point the people must understand is that instead of succumbing to the peer pressure and going after the “hot” college degree program one must do what makes themselves happy and content with what they are doing.

    • Peter Williams


      I agree with you, Saransh, because the enjoyment of one’s job is critical to one’s happiness—ideally, a job shouldn’t even feel like “work.” Intrinsic motivation, i.e. motivation fueled by one’s desire to excel for their own sake, is the best motivator, and with it, those who work doing what they love can easily become experts that add value and reduce risk for whatever/whoever they work for. People who do what they love may ultimately be more productive employees and employers than those who do otherwise.

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