Ketil Solvik-Olsen’s career took a completely different direction than he had imagined as a young man.
The deadline for applying for higher education by the autumn expires soon. Although the world is chaotic and the future seems uncertain, the possibilities are many. The online newspaper talks to famous faces with different backgrounds about what they thought about career choices at a young age – and what they think is a good idea to study now.
Marital status: Wife, two children.
Born: Time municipality
Education: Master’s degree in economics from the University of Toledo, Ohio.
Job: CEO of Hydrolift and business developer of Seabrokers. Former Minister of Transport (2013-2018).
Before he was referred to as the Progress Party’s new “wonderboy” and became top manager of a company that develops self-driving, electric ferries, Ketil Solvik-Olsen really most wanted to become a bus driver and take over the family’s gas station.
He has worked at the box office at Bryne Shellsenter, at Disneyworld in Florida and at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. Later he worked in both a car company and a shipping company, before he became Minister of Transport twelve years later. Then Jærbuen and his family went to Alabama and established a flying school.
Ketil Solvik-Olsen’s career is not the result of a carefully planned strategy or something you can find in a brochure from the study advisor. But that was not the intention either.
– What was your original career plan when you started studying?
– When I went to primary school, the plan was that I would work at a gas station and be a bus driver. At university, however, I became more and more interested in society, and ended up taking degrees in political science and social economics. My brother has a master’s degree in economics, and I think that approach is completely wasted, while I think he lacks perspective, says Solvik-Olsen with a good laugh.
During his youth, the business world seemed like an increasingly attractive place to work, and therefore it became important for Solvik-Olsen to learn and understand how the economy worked. As a politician, it has not been stupid to understand what resources are available, and in that sense, the 49-year-old is happy that he chose a useful education such as economics.
– It’s not just easy to be 20 years old and think about what to do for the rest of your life. Unforeseen things happen and appear that you can not plan, says Solvik-Olsen.
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– Do not make a ten-year plan
After a year as a conscript in His Majesty the King’s Guard’s music troupe, 20-year-old Solvik-Olsen boarded the plane to Ohio to study. The exchange year in Michigan in high school gave more flavor, and Jærbuen was ready for three new years in the states.
– I would recommend everyone to get out of Norway, because the world is big and there are many other ways to think than here. The thinking of others is neither more wrong nor right than here, but taking in more perspectives can be useful for everyone. We are a small country with a lot of interaction and warmth, but getting out can be important for both language, cultural understanding and mentality, says Solvik-Olsen.
Despite the fact that the University of Tuledo was initially a small, regional university, ten percent of the student body came from Asian countries – and Solvik-Olsen got to know other cultures. Today, Jærbuen still has contact with several of the professors he had from his studies.
– What is the smartest thing you have done in your career?
– I have always emphasized understanding and being good at what I do. But I have also been open to new opportunities. Do not make a ten-year plan, but jump at opportunities as they arise. In Norway, we prefer not to brag so much, but I spent three years completing a five-year educational course. I managed this because the work was very interesting and motivating, says Solvik-Olsen and continues:
– Of course I spent many hours in the reading room, and it could seem overwhelming to solve in time. But along the way, spontaneous things appeared that made me experience a lot along the way, and that contributed to variation in the work.
The Norwegian happened to get a summer job in Washington DC, which he combined with self-study subjects. The summer in the capital offered heavy reports and long evenings, but he also received credits for his efforts. In 1996, Solvik-Olsen also worked during the Olympics in Atlanta – or rather he worked as an assistant in a kind of Olympic village in Tennessee.
– When you combine several interests, you can get a lot out of your time and get exciting experiences with the purchase, Solvik-Olsen recalls.
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Would rather clone himself
– What is the dumbest thing you have done in your career?
– In life in general, you should have had the opportunity to clone a few versions of yourself to follow all the opportunities that arise. I often think that I moved home from the United States in 1997 after graduating. It’s not good to say what life would have been like if I had stayed. I probably had plans to write a doctorate and go to different places on internships. But there are some unique things that never come back as soon as you have family and work, says Solvik-Olsen.
He advises today’s young people to understand the opportunity they have as students to seek out exciting people and environments that can later prove to be very useful.
– Yes, there are tests, reading and so on – but the whole life is a continuous test. Seek out new experiences and search for internships. I probably had a small dream of working for David Letterman, and tried to find opportunities to work for him for free. But it never happened, says Solvik-Olsen.
– So you do not regret something you have done or not done?
– No, I do not walk around and am bitter. I followed so many opportunities, and I do not consider any years or experiences lost. When you are abroad and everything is different, you get so many impulses at once. You get out of the daily grind, says Solvik-Olsen and continues:
– There is no point in doing something you think is half fun. Work on something that gives you strength. People who park a car in the evening do not count hours, because it is a passion. Find out where you have joy in life, because then it will be fun, not work.
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Advice for 19-year-olds: – More opportunities than ever
When the 49-year-old looks back at how his education and career developed, he concludes that he would probably have done the same thing again if he had been able to change something. But if he were to sit on the school bench today, he would have chosen history – just because it’s so interesting.
– But if you were 19 or 20 years old and were to start studying today, what would you choose?
– I had probably studied something that combined technology and social studies. It is the most relevant today, and the more you understand societal structures and technology, the more you can contribute to the development of great ideas that can change the world.
He himself is not a technologist, but has a lot of knowledge about how society works and a fascination for technology. As CEO of Hydrolift and business developer at Seabrokers, he gets an outlet for both.
– The world is more complex today than before, but at the same time there are more opportunities than ever. Many people think you have to be Elon Musk to be able to influence. But do not be fooled by a few who succeed extremely. Many people also appreciate a good balance between work and family. At the same time, you can interact with people all over the world via the internet, if you are good enough, says Solvik-Olsen.
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