The sound advice, at one time, was to go to school, get a good education, find and work for the same company until retirement. That was the industrial revolution way. As we move out of it and into the connection revolution, the advice we need to give our kids has changed.
Let’s look how education, both formal and informal, can help with the future.
Coming out of college with a degree in hand sounds like a good situation. Yet, the amount of debt is steadily increasing to get that degree. Many of these graduates can’t get jobs in their fields and end up with a low paying job just to pay off their debt. Ask yourself if college is always a viable option.
College should remain a choice if the career requires a degree – medical, legal and teaching are some of the fields where you need a degree if you want to pursue a career. Create a list of careers that require a degree to get started.
2. Opt-out of college.
In the step above, you should have a list of careers that require a degree to get started. If the career you’re looking into doesn’t require a degree, how can you be sure if going to college is the right choice? Here are some questions to ponder.
- Will college prepare you for the real world?
- Will there be a job opportunity upon graduation? (Only 67% of 2012 and 2013 graduates got jobs in their chosen fields.)
- Will you be ready for a job? Will you have all the necessary knowledge AND skill?
- Can you afford to pay back student loans? (These cannot be expunged by bankruptcy.)
- Will your degree be obsolete before you graduate?
- Are you willing to become a corporate clone?
- Is the time you spend studying worth spending four to six years of your life for a bachelor’s degree?
3. Career testing.
If you’re still not sure about college and / or career choices, participate in career testing. This will help you determine where your strengths and drive are. While you’re in high school, you are doing the classes and activities offered instead of looking for opportunities to expand yourself. Youth groups such as Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts give you opportunities beyond the public education system, but you will still be limited by the ideas and expectations of the adults around you. Check to find if you have career testing available locally. What organizations can help explore possible career choices?
4. Credit saves time.
Many colleges allow you to test out of classes if you have the knowledge and skills. You will be required to show your abilities, however. This might be via a portfolio, test or other way to measure your competency. Check out local colleges and see if they offer this.
Also see if your high school offers “dual credit” courses. These classes are harder, but allow you to start college earlier. The cost is a lot less as well. We paid $25 / credit hour for my youngest’s dual credit courses versus the $150 / credit hour at the college itself.
NOTE: When I started in college in 1983, I tested out of two semesters of Spanish. I paid for the classes as if I had taken them, but I did not invest the time or money for books to get the credit. Compare my experiences with my daughter’s. Upon graduating high school in 2017, through dual credit courses, she was 3 credit hours away from starting college as a sophomore. These 27 credit hours she earned saved us over $3,000 in college tuition.
Be sure to track all of your educational endeavors. If you are actively looking for supplemental opportunities, you will not be able to remember them all. The information you want to track includes:
- Date – ending date if you take it over a period of time
- Type – craft, education, STEM, etc.
- Course / workshop name – may include the presenter’s name
- Time – duration of class
- Location – where you took it
- Basic notes – things you want to remember such as if you received certification
In addition, I also track on mine if I taught the course. Start your own tracking system for your supplemental education.
6. Open education.
You can get open source classes and lectures for free. YouTube videos can show you how to do most anything. Podcasts focus on a single subject. If you have a drive to learn something new, learning online instead of spending years in college will get you further than sitting in a class and regurgitating facts. Take a topic you are interested in and see what you can learn online for free.
7. Trade or vocation.
If you’re interested in being an electrician, plumber or even brick layer, a trade school is a good choice. These career choices allow you to learn the skills needed. Some cost money while some require you to earn less as you learn on the job. Check out what trade schools and / or local unions you have that will train you.
NOTE: My husband took four years of classes to become an electrician. As he earned more credit, his income increased because he was more able to do the work. When I last looked into this, the only requisition to get into the electrician’s union was to get a minimal grade of a “C” in Calculus.
About 75% of employers look for skills more than a degree. A skill means you can *do* something. Below are a few skills employers look for. Determine which ones you have and how you can show that you have them.
- Business skills – visionary, honest, recognize opportunity
- Communication – written and verbal
- IT skills – computer literacy
- Leadership – confidence, problem-solving
- Negotiation – insistence and compromise
9. Goals / drive.
You should have goals that you are trying to achieve on a daily basis. Saying you’re going to write the great American novel instead of going to college and then paying video games every day undermines your goals. If you do not have the drive or well-structured goals, you may find yourself failing to move forward with your career. Look at your goals and see how you can make them smaller and more achievable.
Many people say that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. In as little as 20 hours, you can master the basics. The difference between a beginner and expert is a lot of practice. Be sure that you practice multiple times a week . . . perhaps even every day.
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