A recent YouTube video has surfaced from the Roving Reporter: Canada and The Harvard Crimson. In it Harvard students answer the simple question, “What is the capital of Canada?” I suggest you watch it now before reading any further.
The answers are quite astonishing. Or maybe they’re not. Should we even be surprised? We know that most Americans have little, if any, knowledge of countries other than their own. We know that Canada doesn’t even register on the radar for most Americans. But these are Harvard students – the promising leaders of tomorrow!
Harvard is one of the top universities in the world, with an average tuition of over $50K per year. They receive close to 10,000 applications for 940 or so places in their Harvard School Business program. Having a Harvard education is considered to be top-notch for many business leaders. Mark Zuckerberg, Al Gore, and Steve Ballmer are all Harvard graduates. It is interesting to note that Bill Gates attended Harvard, but dropped out before graduating to co-found Microsoft. In 2007, he returned to receive an honorary law degree.
Harvard has educated some of the most powerful business people in the world. Is it unreasonable to expect Harvard students to know anything about their country’s largest trading partner and neighbour to the north? Or maybe this is a reflection of the American educational system in general that doesn’t teach students (presumably well before Harvard) some basic world knowledge?
It is true that knowing the capital of a country does not make you ‘smart’. Do you know the capital of Brazil? As well, you can tell students in the video feel really bad (#embarrassing) for not knowing the answer to a seemingly simple question. So maybe this is all ‘much ado about nothing.’ We can all be better versed in different areas.
In light of this recent video, here are four things job seekers can learn from Harvard students:
Education alone is no guarantee – If there were any school that could ‘guarantee’ a job with a prestigious company Harvard may be the one. However, in reality education is only a piece of the puzzle. Education will signal to an employer your academic skills, but it is important that employers are aware of what you have to offer in addition to your educational background.
Learning is a life-long process – Learning doesn’t stop once you receive your degree or diploma. Take advantage of any opportunity to further your learning. I once read the importance of spending a half hour each night before bed reading about a topic you know nothing about. It can open your eyes to new opportunities in areas you never knew existed. This can be valuable for your job search.
Be a Well Rounded Person – Being a well-rounded person is extremely important in today’s marketplace. Employers look for candidates who are more than ‘textbook smart’. Many employers look for candidates who have skills such as effective communication, good writing, and can handle many different tasks in the workplace.
There is hope for the rest of us – Is it wrong for me to be slightly happy that Harvard students are sometimes as ignorant as the rest of us? There is something very gratifying in realizing that even Harvard students can look stupid at times (of course, something I know nothing about).
This video highlights many different issues. I think Americans do know things about Canada. Maybe such a meaningless question was unfair. Had they asked “Who is the mayor of Toronto?” I think the responses would be much more accurate. Some things in life are definitely taught outside the classroom. Happy job hunting!
Kevin Makra is the President of Sentor Media Inc., and founder of DirectoryOfCareers.ca. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harvard Students answer: “What is the capital of Canada?”