Everyone’s complaining that the economy sucks. They can’t get a good job because the economy’s in the toilet- but they have a brilliant solution! Go back to school to ride out the economy and get another piece of paper that says they’re more educated than their competitors and can stand out from the crowd.
I hate to share the epiphany I had a few months ago, with you- but it has to be done:
Your résumé is a piece of paper. Your degree is a piece of paper. Both are pieces of paper, in an endless sea of other pieces of paper that are boring, unremarkable, and unexceptional.
Where is the person behind the paper?
How are you going to get noticed?
You’re going to apply for the same jobs, with the same methods and get the same results. Rely on this and You. Are. Vanilla. You are just as exciting as the Times New Roman, 1″ Margins, Microsoft Word Document you used to tell employers about yourself. Your education has failed you, but not in the right way.
Your educational institution did exactly what they promised: They put you through the same classes, with the same standards and the same expectations they use with everyone, so you’d get the same thing everyone else got, and it’d be fair.
Isn’t that what you paid for? We seem to think our degrees make us unique, competitive, and somehow, our grades make us exceptional and brilliant. But in reality, your university wanted you to be totally UNEXCEPTIONAL so they’d be able to give you a pass/fail rating that was reliable and consistent with your peers.
So, the institution did what it promised (give you a reliable measure of aptitude), you did what you set out to do (adhere to the measures to ensure your aptitude and garner the desired standard product), and now, why is there shock when the product does what’s expected? Your degree is not a golden ticket to anything- it’s simply a measure that you could adhere to standards with basic compitence.
In fact, you didn’t even have to excel in your classes. You didn’t have to do any extra-curriculars, or seek the mentorship of anyone who could challenge you. You didn’t have to do anything but simply show up, and sometimes (the majority of the time) you didn’t even have to do that! Chances are, that is exactly what you did- met the minimum standards to graduate. You most likely depended on your school to tell you what books to read, and what dreams to set for yourself. Chances are, you didn’t give it much thought- because if you had, you might have realized, that your education, as it stood, was a farse in terms of doing ANYTHING AT ALL beyond what it set out to do: which is get you that piece of paper, so you could put that line on another piece of paper, and wait for that dream employer to call.
This is where your education failed you- because your education never ACTUALLY failed you.
If you got a degree, you won their game. You worked as prescribed and got what was promised to you. Problem is, it failed you because it made you afraid of failing IT.
Failure isn’t bad- it’s a chance to innovate. The cushion of traditional education means you’re not supposed to innovate, in fact you aren’t supposed to be challenged to innovate. Chances are, it only challenged you enough to pass the test, and that’s as far as it went. Your educators would have done you a world of good had they given you an F, or colored your papers with red ink in a way that actually got you to think in new ways. They should have failed you then- in the short term, but instead they have failed you now, when you need to stand out from the crowd, discover your dream job, to really LIVE YOUR LIFE.
You, me, and scores of others have unquestionably relied on our educational institutions to make us exceptional for the job market- but that’s not what they’re geared to do. Remember, they sell a product- that piece of paper we all want, and the best way to do that is through conventional means.
The economy didn’t just tank- it changed the game.
Having a degree is at best, a foundation- but it is not exceptional. My graduating class at my school in 2010 probably had about 5,000 students, all with comparable degrees and similar Times New Roman/Microsoft Word/1″ margin résumés. I want you to look at these “sample résumés” I found on the internet. Tell me, who would you hire?
Now multiply these equally boring, run-of-the-mill, predictable “Education/Experience/Computer Skill” summaries of your potential and multiply and put it in a pile of 50 other applications who include the same skill sets just different variables.
Is this really what you’re depending on to land your dream job?
A piece of paper that on its face, is completely like the next? Again, the economy hasn’t ruined the market for young job seekers- it just has separated the wheat from the chaff and finally drew attention the growing problem of college-educated mediocrity.
It sucks that the rules have changed- but what’s GREAT is, the rules have changed! We have the internet- we can innovate! At your fingertips (and possibly in your skull already) is all you’d ever need to know. Endless social networks are waiting to be established, and thousands of questions are waiting to be answered. For the low price of $20 or whatever you pay, you have the internet which can help you start the innovative process of re-branding yourself and making your résumé worth reading! In fact, the internet is so awesome, you may not even need a stupid résumé!
My goal in writing this article was to get you thinking outside of the Microsoft Word Template for your life.
Travel, explore, start a charity. Start a blog, tell your story with pictures, record videos, express yourself and get paid for it.
Network, live unconventionally, do something that will get you NOTICED and put THAT on your résumé.
Or, skip the résumé all together and simply create your own job. It can be done- people are innovating as I type this.
Conventionality- whether it be in the education you attained, the methods you choose to get a “good job,” or the path you’re walking down, has failed you. There is a bright, big world of innovation that is happening all around you, and if you are still relying on conventional ideas to get you what you want, you’re going to get conventional results.
Here are some of my favorite innovators. They make money online doing things differently, that challenge them and utilize modalities like Facebook, WordPress and YouTube to MAKE MONEY. Brilliant!
Emilie Wapnick: Author of Puttylike.com, Co-creator of the Undeclared for Life Podcast and also, a phenomenal business coach. I know she does other things to generate income online (I think she does some design work), but her whole spiel is about crafting a career that weaves in your diverse interests without having to settle. She is doing exactly what I want to do- empowering other people to craft their own unique life (and challenging the status quo). One of my favorite articles of hers? Starving Artist, Meet Web 2.0
Chris Guillebeau: Chris also went to graduate school, an experience he calls his “$32,000 mistake.” While he says it was still worth the money to learn the lesson that school won’t teach you what you really need to know, nor will it give you what you’re paying for- his unconventional journey to travel to every country in the world is nothing short of inspiring.
He now gets paid to speak around the world and conduct “passive income” interests from any remote place on the map. His book, The Art of Non-Conformity and the blog of the same name are worth reading.
The fact of the matter is- I write this because it’s something I’m working on too. Can you imagine how much it sucks to rally against the complacency creation that is higher-ed, while I am FINISHING a MASTER’S DEGREE? It’s maddening! But the fact of the matter is, I already made my bed, I have to sleep in it- and I’m going to make the best of it. I can’t do much with “half a master’s degree,” nor can I do much by pissing/moaning my way through my next two semesters.
I’m going to learn and do as much as I can in, and out, of the classroom so I don’t waste any of my precious life. I’m not stressing about getting straight A’s (really, someone tell me what good they really do? It doesn’t do any good to have academic honors on a résumé if the stupid thing gets tossed in the trash before it’s read!
There are no promises that my blog (though I am now a problogger, yay!) will ever yield me any long term career success. There are no promises, just risks and you know? I adore that. I don’t know what “use” this blog would be for the mainstream, but I can already tell you that I still haven’t found a use for Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” except to hold up my computer monitor.