Go to School, Get a Degree, Get a Job… When Will it End?

The times are changing faster than we know it.  As Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”.   Most people are in auto drive.  They follow the advice that their parents gave them and they will most likely pass on the same advice to their children.  Go to school, get good grades, get into a good college, get a degree, get a good job and get a career.  Half a century ago high school was the goal for education.  If you had a high school degree, you were above everybody else and more likely to get a job and succeed in life.   A couple of decades later, everyone was graduating high school so the bachelors degree was the new level that people tried to attain to differentiate themselves from the pack.  Today, the economy stinks and many people graduating with undergraduate degrees can’t find jobs.  Many of them are applying for Masters programs and other advanced degrees primarily so that they have something to do for the time being but also to increase the chances of getting a job and good pay.

What happens when the Masters degree becomes as common as the undergraduate degree?  Or a high school degree?  Will people start going for their PHDs?  As it is, people are finishing school and joining the work world later than ever before.  A third degree will have people starting their careers in their 30’s.  If they are guaranteed great jobs with awesome salaries, that might be okay but what happens when everyone has all of these advanced degrees and the work world is swarming with super educated people?  What happens after a person spends 8 or more years in college and can’t get a job?  Think about the amount of student loans he’ll have or how much money has been spent on his education.  I’m not sure if thinking about retirement is even an option at that point.

Getting a Job out of High School

I’ve been thinking of an alternative and I’d love to hear your feedback.  This may not be the right move for everybody but I feel that it does have some merit.

After graduating high school, find something that you love to do.  Something you are passionate about and would love to learn more about.  You may have something already or you may want to travel for a while, take some temp jobs or experiment to find what you want to do.  Then find a company that is doing just that and offer to work for them for a year for free.  Tell them that you love their industry, you love their company and you love how they do business and you would consider it the biggest privilege to work for them for free for an entire year.  I’m not talking about flipping burgers for minimum wage.  I’m talking about a real job with real experience that will benefit you for the rest of your life.

A college degree can get you your first job but it is your first job that gets you your second job.  Imagine skipping the four year process of getting a degree and moving straight to your first job.   I am sure that you will learn more on the job during your first year than you can learn in four years of college.  Experience will beat the classroom every time.

You may say that someone who takes this route will be paid less but in reality he will actually be paid more.  He will start working at least three to four years before his peers, he wouldn’t have paid any tuition or be in debt with student loans and after a few years on the job, his experience will demand a decent salary.

I Agree, College is Good or Needed for Some Things

I’ve had this conversation before and I agree that college is good for some things.  For one, certain fields require a license to practice such as medicine or law.  If that’s the case, you need to follow the plan.  You can also say that college offers you great social opportunities and I would argue that you can get equal opportunities travelling around the world and through meetups in your own city.  You might say that college requires you to take certain courses to broaden your mind and I’ll tell you that we live in the age of overflowing information on the internet.  Anyone can learn about anything they want at any time without stepping into an academic institution.  In fact, some universities even offer all of their courses online for free where the only difference is that if you pay, you are eligible for a degree and if not, you just get educated.

How about Temp Work as an Option?

What if you weren’t 100% sure what your passion is or what you’d be happy doing for the rest of your life?  You can find temp jobs in different industries and different positions and gain both work experience and industry experience finding what you love to do.  Opportunities are all over the place if you keep your eyes open and by moving around from temp job to temp job, you are sure to stay alert and notice some great opportunities if you want to.  You might even find that your passion is doing different types of temp work all the time.

Fifty years ago, the advice was get good grades and graduate high school so that you can get a good job.  Now we’re moving from undergraduate to graduate programs so that you can get a good job.  What do you think this advice will be in 10 or 20 years from now?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Pic Credit: ralph and jenny