Am I the only person who feels like we live in a world where our parents, grandparents or even that sweet family friend next door firmly believes either we, as a young generation, get a degree and live a prosperous life or we don’t and we are total deadbeats? (Maybe a bit extreme, but this is how it feels sometimes) This may have been how it was before, but things don’t stay the same forever.
I was one of those who believed I needed at least a bachelor’s degree to obtain what I wanted in life. While I don’t regret my decision because of the doors it opened for me, I also don’t think it’s the only way to go, in fact, I learned more outside of my classrooms than I ever did in them. So here is what I learned in my 4 years of college summed up into just 3 points.
- The real working world is a foreign place for a recent graduate.
That may be a little extreme, but really, hardly any of my in-class material ever transferred over to my first “real world” job. Okay, maybe 1 full class I can think of transferred over and that was Digital Marketing, but other than that, I really only use bits and pieces here and there from my other courses. My degree was in Marketing, so things that stuck with me are Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, The 4 P’s of Marketing (Product, Place, Price, … crap, I forgot the 4th…. Promotion! (Thank you Google!) Really though, there are very few things I think back to and go, “Oh, I Learned this in that one class!“
I learned more in the first month of my real job than I ever thought I would. By the time we graduate and enter the real world, we have been taught that we are ready to begin our work and we know what we need to be successful. I spent the first few months of my job learning how to be a marketer…. Isn’t that what I went to school for 4 years for? In the first few months of my job, I learned how to excel in Google AdWords, how to put math into real life situations, how to prepare marketing service contracts, and how to build proposals then pitch them. I absolutely loved what I was learning and that it was all real life application. These are only things I could learn in a work situation.
- The most valuable thing you can do is extracurricular activities.
I know I heard similar statements like this all throughout college and I never believed them. “Companies look for extracurriculars” or “You have a better chance of getting into this program if you have extracurriculars”. I remember that being pounded into my brain for years, even through high school. Honestly, IT’S TRUE. And I’m not really talking about things like running for school office, or playing sports. While those are good things, they don’t always make you stand out. The most valuable thing I ever did in college was my 4 month study abroad in France. I went to obtain an international business certificate and it was the greatest learning experience of my life. I learned how to network, how to communicate with people I didn’t know or who didn’t even speak the same language, how to get out of my comfort zone, and how to accept other points of view whether I agreed with them or not. The 4 year degree may have gotten my foot in the door, but my experiences are what made me stand apart from the crowd.
- Real life experiences didn’t ever come from sitting at a desk in a classroom.
I loved my professors who came from real jobs with experiences in the field they taught, especially if they were still in that industry on the side. This meant they could give us real life examples and scenarios. With that being said, examples couldn’t replace the experience of getting my own hands dirty.
Aside from my study abroad, I did more. I created my own website, kept a blog while I was traveling abroad to encourage others to pursue similar activities and to expand their comfort zones. Doing this gave me talking points in interviews and it got people interested in the type of person I am. It also taught me how to market myself as a person and my own work. I learned what I should do and what I shouldn’t do, but I learned those things from my own mistakes through trial and error. Other activities such as internships can be just as valuable if not more so than a degree. Like I mentioned before, I learned more working skills in the first few months at my first real job than I did during my 4 years in classes.
I’ve not saying that getting a 4 year degree is bad, and I certainly don’t regret my decision, however, it is unfortunate now that people will pass by a good resume full of experiences, personal and professional, simply because of the lack of a few words under the education portion. Internships, studying abroad and most other choices of life and educational experience could rival any degree. So pick your own path. Expand yourself past your 4 years of sitting in classrooms. Get out, get real work experience, go see another country while earning credits at the same time, and/or get involved in your community. It’s so much more valuable than you can image.