Our society has collectively determined that college is the answer to your career.
Need a better job?… Go to College
Want to make good money?… Head on over to the university.
Can't get the job you want?… Well you obviously have the wrong degree.
Most people in our culture seem to have determined that college is the omnipotent solution for everything. To be very clear… I'm not mad at College and I don't think getting a degree is a bad thing (I even have a couple myself) but I am not convinced that college really helps everyone…
It doesn't guarantee you a job:
I have encountered numerous people that are terrible at building relationships and presenting themselves to others. These two things alone matter so much more than what degree you have behind your name when you are after a particular job. These same people may have been better off to spend time developing those relationship skills to make connections in the area, and focusing on getting better at interviewing.
It can come with a bunch of debt:
When you have that debt in your name it can force you to sacrifice when you make your career choices. For example, If you really want to be in Marketing but you feel like you must take the first job that you are offered and that happens to be something called a “marketing specialist”. You know that this is really just making phone calls and doing cold calling sales but you take it anyways because you have to pay the bills on your brand new Marketing degree.
Your family and friends may not realize that you could have gotten that same Marketing specialist job without the college degree.
College alone does not help you determine what you are great at:
There are a few great college career centers out there. Career Centers that are very effective at supplying students and potential students with the knowledge, resources, experiences and assessments to understand what they are great at and what some of those natural strengths are. There are only a few though… The rest seem to have very overworked and under resourced people that are great at providing information about what the college has to offer and what roads you can take BUT NOT what roads may be best for you given your unique abilities.
For most people college instead helps them understand what not to do. One candidate said to me “I just came out with a degree in accounting and I know that I don't want to do that”.
Attending higher education can offer you a variety of different experiences fairly rapidly, depending on the type of degree program you are in. This will be useful to you if you are willing to spend the time reflecting on what resonates with you and what doesn't and why.
Most people don't spend this time. Therefore college alone is not the answer to this either.
My degree's in Biology but I do Retail Sales Management
Most people that I work with do something else occupationally instead of what their degree is in. This alone is proof of two things
- There is more than one path to the same type of work
- Many people are willing to spend their time pursuing something or finishing something they don't really like
If you work in a job or industry that requires a specialty degree in almost all cases you may not see this different degree phenomenon. Teaching at an public elementary school is a great example. My wife, Alyssa was a teacher for years before she came home to be with the kids. Instead we observed was that there was a lot of people that were teaching because they liked the idea of teaching back when they were in college and by the time that they started their student teaching they realized they didn't actually enjoy the act of teaching itself. By then they feel like they need to continue on with it. They get into a school district and because they are not passionate about the “act of Teaching” they become a mediocre educator and feel like they are stuck.
College alone often does not help with these choices and sometimes makes them more difficult with the current structure.
So if the university is not the perfect answer to everything… then when should you go?
- When you have a plan to pay for it so it can actually expand your career choices later instead of limiting them because of debt.
- When you can answer the question of “what will I get out of College that I will not get someplace else?”
- When you fully understand WHY you want to pursue a particular occupation or area of work for your career.
Sometimes people get part way into a degree and learn much more and make better decisions with new information. This may cause course corrections and that's ok… as long as you had a well developed plan coming in.
I encourage people to be intentional with their career and their lives and higher education is no different. Until you can answer some of the questions above, you fully understand what you will get (and won't get) out of it, and have an intentional plan for how it will benefit your career, don't expect it to be the answer to everything.
What caused you to decide to go or not go to college?