What's Your Human Capital?

For those of you non-business majors that never had to take any kind of economics class, Human Capital is defined as the knowledge and skills workers acquire through education, training and experience.

Human Capital plays a role in a country’s GDP (Gross-Domestic Product), a value that is also determined by quantity of labor, physical capital, natural resources and technological knowledge. With America’s current GDP, all of this makes me wonder what Generation-Y’s Human Capital is worth.

Education, training and experience: it is rare that anyone is increasing more than one of these at any given time. When you’re in college, your focus is your education and anyone brave enough to have a job while in school usually works the bare-minimum of part-time.

Training takes place at the beginning of a job, before you have any real experience but usually after you’ve had a decent education or something in place of it. And experience takes time. Experience doesn’t come from holding a job for a few months; you can only be considered experienced after years working from the bottom of the totem pole.

From a young age, it is instilled in our minds that it’s important to go to a respectable university in order to have a successful career afterwards. But these days, college grads make up a decent portion of the unemployed population. So is college actually worth the value we place on it?

I’ve noticed that there are several cases where the high school graduate that entered the work force immediately is better off than the college grad that took a four-year vacation. I think employers are starting to prefer high school graduates that they can train like monkeys four years before that same batch of students will graduate with a pretentious head on their shoulders from college.

Employers are definitely wise to the ways of college students. They know that there are plenty of fine institutions that offer bountiful educations, but they also know that whether or not the student really wants to learn is the factor that determines how useful they will be after graduation.

College is known as the four-year party before the hangover that is called adulthood, so are students actually attending for a higher education or just an empty degree?

This is why the Human Capital of Generation-Y is lacking. So many of us are attending the aforementioned respectable university, but we’re not doing anything to gain useful knowledge that will increase our worth when we eventually enter the work force.

The most important type of education we receive during college is offered by the internships you have. Stereotypically, most interns are brought into companies as free labor, especially for coffee runs, but don’t expect that to be all that the internship is about.

While you’re there, you should be taking advantage of the opportunity to observe people in your desired profession and begin learning skills that will actually help you in the real world. You shouldn’t treat your internships as resume-fillers because they can be so much more. Internships help you network yourself and open doors for future job opportunities at that company.

Some people factor all of that in and decide to work immediately after high school. But the fear remains: what if you can’t find any work that pays decently? What if everyone was right when they said you should go to college? What if it’s hard? What if you’re missing out on a good life experience?

These are among the many “what ifs” that you can ask yourself, and you’ll never know the answer to any of them. The only answer you can possibly fathom is what you want to do with your life, and how you want to contribute to society.

So with that, I’d like to offer my own definition of Human Capital as opposed to the textbook one used by economists that I gave you earlier. I’d say that Human Capital is development of a person as they discover what they want to do, and learn how to accomplish it, and how they contribute their findings to society.

My version of Human Capital is thus determined by the worth that you place on such things as education, training and experience.

Samantha | Elite.