I guess music defines different ages as well as anything. When playing trivia I always announce that, for music, my knowledge ends with Gustav Mahler. While an exageration, “modern” music eludes me. I once went to a “rock” concert. Sting was performing at a football stadium in Madrid. Our au pair wanted to go but did not want to go alone. I agreed to take her. I remember one scene that has stayed with me - the band was playing in full force, smoke of whatever origin clouded the field, and in the back one could see youngsters coming over the wall to attend the event for free.

The gulf between music today and that with which I am famliar is as wide as the gulf between what employment is today and when I entered the work force. When I was in university the goal was to get a degree, any degree, and then find a job based on that degree. In the mid-1960s one could get a job by merely having a college degree, since companies hired you to give some gravitas to their firms.

Ask any youngster today what it takes. He or she will quickly reply with laments about having degrees, but no job prospects. Even advanced degrees don´t guarantee a job. The situation is even worse in the wake of the “Great Recession” of 2008-9.

So what to do? How does one prepare for today´s job market? For the last 20 years I have been advising youngsters to use their university time to develop their skills and talents. I warn against studying for a certain degree tied to a certain job, e.g. a teaching degree. You have to develop your skills to the point that you can use them to apply to any task.

I recall one of my older daughter´s classmates who replied, when I asked what she was studying, “psychology.” I responded, “great choice.” It shook her for a minute, but she soon said, “you are the first person to say that.” I explained that psychology is the best study for those who want a career in sales. You have to understand people, why they do things, what they do, how they do them, how to influence them and more if you want to sell. She said she didn´t plan on selling for a living but my reply made her feel better about her chosen field.

My own daughters followed my advice. They, of course, will say that they came on this by themselves, but indeed, they used their university years to develop their skills and talents. Older daughter speaks three foreign languages well, as evidenced by having qualified to professionally translate Spanish to English and vice versa and obtaining her masters degree from a German language school, the University of Vienna. Her actual field of study is English literature, but she has also honed her foreign language skills to a high degree. Younger daughter got her masters degree in fine art and is an artist. She works as an animator because she developed her skills and talent well enough to earn her living with them.

The reason I emphasize developing your skills and talents is that potential employers are not interested in what you have done, but what you can do for them. Obviously past performance indicates future success. But they want to know, “what can you do for me,” not, “what have you done for others.” The key to this is having the right skills.

The other reason to develop your skills and talents is my other main suggestion to youngsters, instead of looking to work for others, try working for yourself. Today´s America is a vast field of opportunity for those willing to risk going into business for him or herself. As any economist will tell you, most new jobs today come from small business and, if there is opportunity for employees here, it is even more true for entrepreneurs.

Now tell me again about the differences between acid, hard and electric rock.