The Case for Getting to Work Now

Not completely related but it is funny.

Back in the day, the thing to do was to get a college degree, land a good paying job and live the good life. That dream is no longer real (if it ever was.)

College was supposed to get you ready for adult life by giving you the experience and tools you needed. It now gives you neither as college life is not real, by any stretch, and the experiences you have are not at all related to what awaits after graduation.

You don’t learn to manage money. You used to be able to pay for college with summer jobs. Even by the time I went I had to save all summer and work four jobs concurrently while attending class to pay the bills. I only got one small student loan during my 7-year stint. (It takes longer when you pay for it yourself.) I had to learn money management quick.

Now, you have to take out student loans – the prices are simply to high to avoid it. Most students leaving college these days are strapped with debt they will likely never completely repay. You learn how to go into debt, nothing more.

You don’t learn how to work in a real job. The college experience has little to do with the real world. It is so far removed from reality that student who do land jobs after graduation rarely do in their chosen field. In addition, few get jobs that they couldn’t have landed while starting lower or interning. It would have taken less time and not left them with a mountain of debt.

Heck, the internship at Lone Star Gridiron alone has placed more than two dozen sports communication enthusiasts in jobs at newspapers, television and radio stations. No college required. They landed those jobs by working hard, learning the skills we taught, taking initiative, and more than anything else doing the work.

You don’t learn practical skills. 85% of college graduates return home jobless within six months of graduation according to a study just a year ago. Why? Because they do not have the skills needed for the job market. You can study computer science at a university only to graduate and discover companies are working on the next thing. Some of the cutting edge curriculum in high school is more advanced than you find at a lot of universities.

You don’t learn any of the physical aspects of a job. Okay, yes, in nursing and teaching you do hands-on work – but no so for most fields. You went to college so you didn’t have to be a laborer? Well, those are the most available and are very highly paid jobs these days.

I have a friend who owns an electrical services company and he tells me that he simply cannot find people willing to work hard (ie sweat) no matter how much he pays. Same thing for a client of mine that does air conditioning. These guys offer positions to kids right out of high school and pay them in excess of $60k – $80k a year – with only a high school diploma! The jobs sit vacant or are filled by recent immigrants from Central and South America. These workers think they’ve hit the lottery because America is still the land of opportunity in their eyes.

What does college get you? It delays adulthood as sort of a high school plus, where you still go to weekly social events with friends, watch the school sports teams and generally avoid being an adult. But the cost is much more than the piles of student debt – it is the time lost. While you live the life of a righteously indignant college student, your competition entered the job market (often while still in high school) and is kicking you in the pants in terms of real world learning.

What is the answer? That is different for each individual and which field of study. I can tell you this though – it is not what I am calling college privilege – the act of sitting in your bubble, telling the world how to fix itself and doing nothing productive in society – it is not complaining that the system is broke and that the world owes you something – it is not taking the loans, enjoying the social aspects of college life and then demanding your debt be forgiven.

The higher education system is a bubble that is set to burst. It simply cannot sustain itself. Look for student loan defaults to skyrocket. Look for on-campus unrest to rise. Look for these institutions to have diminishing enrollments. Look for the pricing to plummet and many large universities to fail outright. Look for further growth in the competitive private education sector with accompanying price wars.

To prepare yourself for this as a high school student, get to work. Don’t get to work learning to eventually work. Just get to work. Understand that the market rewards action, self-motivation, innovation – hustle. There are no free ride, easy jobs and the sooner you get to work the better off you will be.

Entrepreneurship is creating your own job. Yes, I am a huge proponent of starting your own thing. I have been gainfully unemployed for most of my adult life. That means I have to get up and make things happen every day. Yes, I can take days off and do what I like when I like, but the result of my motivation (or lack) shows up in my bottom line each month. The good news is that I am not at the mercy of someone else – I sink or swim by my own actions.

Whether you start your own business, start at a lower level with a company or just pay the bills doing something unrelated to your goals, you are building a resume that is full of experience and that makes you marketable.

Success does not come from a diploma. It comes from personal development, self-control, communication skills, relationships and boatloads of passion. You learn these by doing – get to work!

by Chris Doelle