Your Education Has Failed You

April 23, 2011

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,  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.

Be brave.  Advocate for your dreams.  Take risks.  Tell your story.

12 comments so far.

12 responses to “Your Education Has Failed You”

  1. Amber J. says:

    Fabulous! And so true! You can guest post for me anytime!

    -Amber J.

    • Shannyn@FruBeautiful says:

      Thank you so much Amber! I look forward to checking out your blog and connecting with you 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, it\’s always great to meet other bloggers!

  2. […] a fellow Gen Y’er who runs  the blog, Frugal Beautiful, wrote this awesome post called “Your Education Has Failed You.” I almost jumped out of my seat when I read it because it pretty much sums up how I feel. This […]

  3. Becky says:

    I think my stumbling upon this blog while looking at my twitter feed (which I do exactly once every two weeks because I don't understand it) was today's serendipity moment… I have THREE degrees. I don't actually know how much they cost me because I have not been able to afford to start paying for them since getting my final "piece of paper". I can, however, say for sure, that my husband and I have spent more in the last 6 months on a new kind of education than I did in the last ten years on my degrees. We came to realize that rather than doing what we've thought we have to do, we need to have a purpose in our life. We have been training intensively with an investor education company and hope to be worth more than I knew was possible a few months ago in order to help make the world the place we always hoped it could be but didn't think we could do anything about. We can't wait to start non-profits and travel the world making things happen that we believe in. I admit that I had become VERY discouraged in the past couple of years as it appeared that my time, money, and dependence I had put into my education were absolutely in vain. I learned one thing while getting three degrees. I learned how to find out more. I had no idea that that would, in the end, be the most useful thing I could have walked away with.
    Game changing blog!!! Thank you!!!

  4. […] Your education has failed you on Frugal Beautiful, a great article on thinking outside the box. And a related post; The 10 Worst Paying Degrees of 2011 on Not Made of Money. […]

  5. Wow, you should call this Shannyn's Manifesto. I did quit my master's degree with just 3 classes to go because I was so disgusted with the sham it was. So I lost all my money and time already invested in a master's. If I'd finished it I don't think my life would have turned out differently, but who knows. It felt like the right thing to do. YMMV

  6. Love this! You are echoing my thoughts exactly. The education system can't guarantee anything besides a normal education that can be printed on a normal piece of paper. Think outside the box and create your own success.

  7. ELIAS says:

    Incridible,how come you describe in words the restrained feelings.congratulation!keep up the good work

  8. rink says:

    I love this post! I think a lot of young people don't realize that getting a college education help them "get ahead" like everyone says- it just keeps them equal to everyone else. Now, this is obviously better than falling behind, but it isn't some kind of great advantage
    College is not worthless, but the system needs to be changed to help young people become employable. No one in school ever told me to network, or even how to conduct myself as I attempt to enter the workforce. I learned (and am still learning) all of that myself. Writing 15 page papers only resulted in having written 15 page papers. Sure, I'd get A's, but then I'd meet people who's serious reading is People Magazine, but they Get Stuff Done, and Take Fancy Vacations, and Make More Than Me, so why did I think all those A's were worth anything? I am a little resentful of that. I'm just glad I went to a cheap school.

  9. rink says:

    I don't think the solution is to not go to college- again, it keeps you on equal footing these days, because we are still of the mindset that it is necessary. But on TOP of Gettin' A Degree, do as much as you can to make yourself employable in the field you desire. Get a plan together, look for internships frequently, volunteer, etc…
    I realize that this means students today are in the position of keeping up with schoolwork AND possibly part-time jobs AND all the outside stuff that will make them better job candidates- and, look, that sucks, because a full-time courseload is a full time job already… so, actually, I don't know what to say. It isn't fair, and it should change. But I greatly appreciate your post because it points out exactly what we should all be aware of when we attend college: It only puts you in the same position as everyone else, so you have to figure out how to make yourself stand out, and how to make yourself feel fulfilled.

  10. Aaron B says:

    Being a first time reader of your blog, I just wanted to thank you for sharing this amazing post with the world! It’s a shame that so many of my peers are lining up in droves to chase after that piece of paper at the end of that yellow brick road. Luckily I managed to dodge that bullet and decided to create my own opportunities instead. 

    However, I can’t say it’s been easy. At 22, many people fail to understand why I haven’t decided to pursue a degree and line some employer’s pockets for the rest of my life. Frankly, many people think I’m crazy. But I know I’m not alone. Those of you out there pursuing your dreams with wreckless abandon, keep moving forward despite the pressure to be normal. We are different by design and will reap the rewards of our struggle when our labour comes to fruition.

    In closing, I would like to quote one of your most recent posts as I feel it’s very fitting in this situation. (I guess it also helps that as simple as it was, the quote really struck a heartstring somehow) 

    “If you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done”

    -Aaron B


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