In a world where self-centeredness is celebrated, we often forgot this one important truth: that the world operates not on the basis of what you want to do, but what can you do.

photo by shoothead

I was listening to Randy Pausch’s last lecture – Really Achieving Your Childhood Dream for the fifteenth time when this story hit me.

Professor Pausch had just become a Disney Imagineer when a colleague asked him what he could do. In his own words:

“When I first got to Imagineering, she is one of the people who dressed me down. She said, ‘I understand you’ve joined the Aladdin Project. What can you do?’

Well I’m a tenured professor of computer science.

‘Well that’s very nice Professor Boy, but that’s not what I asked. I said what can you do?'”

And the last words haunt me.

If someone asks me that question, I would not know how to answer.

The next day after I listened to the lecture, my editor in Meld talked to me about the new way of journalism.

“It’s no longer about your CV when it comes to an employer,” she said. “It’s ‘This is my CV. I have 1,000 blog subscribers, 700 Twitter followers, and 600 Facebook likes. I carry all those followers with me. So do you want to hire me or not?”

So again, what can you do?

In a world where you need to be extra good at everything, you need to be able to do literally everything. Being a journalist doesn’t mean you can just be an expert at writing on print media. In today’s language, being a journalist means you need to be able to write on online media, write on print, talk on radio, and understand social media.

I was having brunch with an old high school friend lately and we talked a lot about our future. We both are graduating soon, and yet we both feel like we have zero experience in our bagpack.

“Sure, we have had part-time jobs and a bit of internship here and there. I might even say that compared to others, we are half-way there. But do you how average we are compared to 300,000 other graduates?” she asked.

Well, pretty average.

Sadly, the world today teaches us one beautiful, insanely dangerous, and wrong belief: it’s all about me. My wants come first, everything else comes second. If one thing doesn’t align with my passion, it’s definitely not my path to take. No wonder we are so sold with cutting corners and having shortcuts.

We live, in a world with a microwave mentality.

Some colleagues I know worked two part-time jobs since they were in high school. Some would have ten different internships under their belt by the time they graduate. Some others have run their online entrepreneurship businesses while studying.

What can I do? Compared to them, I can do nothing.

Plus, The Guardian states that one in four new graduates would be unemployed. Statistically proven.

A friend who works in an HR company once told me that there is a big, fat box that contains all of the resumes of the new applicants. If you’re lucky, your resume would be there somewhere. When the selection process begins, it takes them ten seconds to scan through a file before they decide whether to put it inside the dumping box or shortlisted box. How long does it take you to make your resume? Your whole life.

And yet I feel like I have wasted my 20 years of life. If I have known all these six years ago, I might have worked my ass off since junior high.

You know – I would have read more, written more, and experimented even more.

A degree no longer promises you a decent job, a decent payment, with a decent time requirement. Heck, it doesn’t even guarantee you an employment.

What can you do? Good question. Let me get back to you on that.

Good news is, I still have four months to upgrade my skills before I need to answer that question in front of my future prospective employers. The bad news is, I only have four months.

What can you do? Share your experiences in the comment section below.