Will Your College Edumacation Get You a Job?

on February 27, 2012 | in Education, Work | by

Not to come off as a big deal or anything, but I’ve always liked to think I was pretty S-M-R-T.  I mean, you know that super annoying chick in junior high who, like, cried if she got a B?

Yeah, that was me.

Which is why after exchanging years of my life, thousands of dollars, and at least one-quarter of my liver to earn a degree from Gonzaga University, I was shocked and surprised to find my post-graduation self working as a manager at Hollister.

Yeah, Hollister. That clothing store in the mall for 14-year-olds.

After studying hard to get straight As all my life, the most difficult skill I had to learn at Hollister was how to fold shirts.

Guys, today I’m absolutely gonna burst your bubble:

Unless you’re a super-freak of nature, your college degree will not get you the job you deserve.

So what will?


Today, sweet perspectives from people who know shit.

Skip College; Be Awesome at Life

Andrew Olson never went to college, but I’m pretty sure most employers would hire him over… oh, say 99.9% of my college educated friends. (COLLEGE EDUCATED FRIENDS PLEASE TAKE NOTE: If you’re reading this right now, of course you’re in the .1% ;-)

Instead, he decided to learn relevant stuff on his own — and most importantly, he got out there into the bullpen and JFDI (“Just Effin’ Did It”).

In his own words:

“In this world, the only skill you really need is the ability to learn new things. If you know how to read (really read) and absorb new information, your knowledge will be far deeper than the average college graduate who listened to lectures and filled in bubbles on tests.

Even at 15, I somehow recognized how futile college would be at teaching me to learn. And, how unnecessary it would be if I learned the important things on my own. So rather than setting my sights on college, I scraped by with mostly B’s (…and an occasional C) and focused on teaching myself the things I wanted to learn.

I spent my free time in the school library building websites, writing articles, and checking my AdSense earnings. I read books on affiliate marketing and spent time in the Internet Marketing forums. By the time I graduated, I had sold 2 websites for a total of $9,000.

Finding work is not harder without a degree – if you’re skilled. People don’t want your piece of paper; they want your qualifications. Find a way to get qualified. Period.

I find it funny how people often say “My friend has a degree and can’t find a job, so it must be impossible for people without an education.” Have they ever considered that their friend simply doesn’t have what it takes to get hired?

Andrew wrote a killer in-depth post a few weeks back in which he gave away all the secrets to his success. Degree or no degree, check it out here: 100 Ways to Succeed Without Going to College.

Disclaimer: If you plan on becoming a brain surgeon, please do not skip college. K thanks.

Recession-Proof Your Career

After graduating from Colorado State, Charlie Hoehn faced a dilemma similar to my own: Despite being bright and motivated, his post-graduation job opportunities reeked of crappiness and mediocrity.

Then he figured out what really matters when it comes to work: The ability to develop insight into peoples’ minds, wants, and needs, and to subsequently blow them away with the value you can add.

By the time he’d reached 25, Charlie had used his self-made “Recession Proof Graduate” strategy to score experience working with marketing genius Seth Godin, financial & behavioral guru Ramit Sethi, best selling author & productivity whiz Tim Ferriss, and professional jackass Tucker Max, among others.

The best thing about Charlie? Despite his level of awesomeness, he’s not an asshole (and he’s funny, too).

Check out his free e-book right here (or be sorry): Charlie Hoehn’s Recession Proof Graduate.

What College Will Never Teach You

Michael Ellsberg spent years interviewing successful people without college degrees, and in the process he busted some pretty huge myths.

The Myth: If you get into a good college, study hard, and graduate with excellent grades, you will be pretty much set for a successful career.

The Reality: The biggest thing you won’t learn in college is how to succeed professionally.

Then Michael wrote a book that revealed it all: The Education of Millionaires. Of course, being a millioniare is NOT what life’s all about, but the book’s got some pretty dang good insights. Check it out here: The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think and It’s Not Too Late.

* * *

In the end, it’s not that your college degree is worthless — if given the choice, I’d absolutely get my (two) degrees all over again.

It’s just that in and of itself, possessing a piece of paper will never make you awesome. As Charlie Hoehn likes to say (and this makes me chuckle to myself [CTM] every time I think of it), “College degrees are not given to unique snowflake children.”

Regardless of your choice in edumacation, the real question is this: Can you add real value in the workplace and in the world?

Find ways to answer this question with a HELL MOTHER-EFFING YES, and watch as your greatest potential bursts forth.

# # #

[Image by Hammonton Photography]

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  • Awesome post, thanks for the shout out! I like how you said: “In the end, it’s not that your college degree is worthless” because the point is not necessarily that one should skip college, but to understand that a college education != success (that’s “not equals” to all you non-geeks).

    It’s more about finding your own path, thinking for yourself, and making a career/life/success work for YOU rather than following the mold. Because, clearly, the mold isn’t working for everyone.

    • Yes– clearly! And your insight is right on — it’s about finding the path that works for YOU, whatever that may be.

  • Afford Anything

    I admit, my first thought was: “Wow, Hollister pays $12.50 an hour??”

    • Haha… for managers (and they require a college degree!). The “regular” positions are minimum wage.

    • Haha I totally thought the same!

  • Vishnu

    Therese – good post. having a couple degrees myself, I go back and forth on this issue of having a college education. Some college education does help since many jobs require a college degree at a minimum to apply for those jobs. And there have been jobs I’ve had which clearly needed a college degree. But I’ve also seen how people without college degrees have made it big and become very successful. I think your main point resonates – it’s not really about the college degree, it’s more about how much value we add to the world. We can add ( a lot of value) with or without a college degree.

  • I went to a Millionaire Mindset seminar this weekend in Boston and was shocked! There were people with very advanced degrees who were looking for ways to not only make money, but just to make ends meet. It’s not about the degree (cuz no one uses the degree they got in college anyway) it’s about your vivacity, love of life, and ability to grab at the limitless opportunities that it throws your way :) One thing I did learn at this seminar was wake up every morning screaming “I love my life!!!” and even if you don’t, saying it till you believe, will make it so :)

    • Haha I like your last little insight here, Justyna. I think I’ll start screaming “I LOVE MY LIFE!” every morning and see what happens… (then again, thankfully I already DO love my life, so maybe I don’t need to?!!)

  • This is all very true. Getting a college education is awesome, but I HATE it when people say that you can’t be successful, or even happy without one.

    I’m 19 and I’m not in college, but I’m putting all my time into something I’m passionate about. I’m self-educating and learning from experience. It’s frustrating when people make me feel like that’s wrong. 99% of my family members don’t even know that I’m not currently planning on going to college because I’m afraid they’ll burn me at the stake and eat me for dinner if they find out. It’s that bad.

    But passion and hard work ultimately get people where they want to go in life. :)

    • Good for you, Madison! I’m with ya.

      Haha, “burn you at the stake and eat you for dinner…” oh dear :( Hopefully you know that you’ve got a whole community behind you (right here!)

      Keep rockin!

    • Stephen Crowe

      Im going to reply to this man. I am a bit older than you just turned 36. I have two degrees, a b.a. and a masters in anthroplogy. Unfortunately except for a little bit, my degrees did not as of now help me get a better job in the archaeology field, nor any new job in that field since graduating in 2012. I do bg work now in films and movies, but truthfully it doesnt pay enough for me to live where I work on my own. Thus I had to move back in with my parents at 30 and yeah I am 36 now. I am currently trying to learn code and possibly become a working author, so it will probably be ok.The point I am making here though is with telling you this story is not for you to feel sorry for me but to know that on the one hand I agree that degrees value in the workplace were way overflated so that colleges could rack in more and more money from students, on the other if I was 19 again, I would still probably go to college because some fields that are now very interesting to me do require a degree, and though again the degree in and of itself is overflated, when it comes down to promoting someone on the same job, the person with the formal degree will still probably be the companies first choice, because it looks better, and businesses some at least have some vested interest in maintaining their ties with certain colleges and therefore to make their partners product still have some value they will prefer the person for promotion who has the degree over who doesnt.
      Good luck man

  • IHeartTravel

    Yet another great post at The Unlost! First I’ll get to the material , I believe in what is being said in this post so much! After I got out of the military I thought “Hey I’ll just go back to school, get a degree, and be all set”. What I have come to realize since starting school is exactly what you mention here. That expensive piece of paper is not job security. The person that has received that piece of paper has to have something to share with the world. Your degree alone wont do that.

    Second you used my baby in acronym form CTM !!!!!!! I was pleasantly reading the post and BAM……CTM and all its glory ….I’m like a proud father seeing his child take flight into the world !!!


    • YES!!! Thanks for the CTM; I broke it out this time and it was ALL due to you! Awesome! :-) :-)

  • I’m a big fan of Hoehn and Ellsberg. Their philosophies are dead-on, and I recommend them to everyone now. Whether you’re self-employed or not, it’s all about skills and what you can do with them.

    I have a couple degrees myself, and while they’re great for adding value in a workplace, I can’t say the careers they would bring would do much for the world.

  • Josh Lipovetsky

    Great post as always, Therese. I am loving how you write about your personal experience(s) with each blog post, rather than just talk about grand concepts. It’s so powerful to go micro+macro in the same post!

    I love the self-education movement. I’ve been reading “The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to The Classical Education You Never Had” and “How to Read a Book”. Great stuff!

    Reading books + taking notes really helps me understand the material. It takes such a long time, but it’s definitely worth it to go in-depth. That’s been a big focus of mine, and I know it’s gonna pay off. :)

    • I’ll have to check out those books, Josh. & you, my friend, are undoubtedly on a path of greatness ;-)

  • I think I picked one of the few careers that requires a degree (CPA) but I can’t say that my years in college did much for me. After maintaining my license for over 20 years, I let it lapse last year as I didn’t really see the value. I’ve spent the last four years trying to make ends meet as the demand for high level finance executives is pretty slim (at least in places where I would want to work). So, at the tender age of 44 I’m remaking myself into something completely different and something I absolutely love. I know that there are no degrees for what I want to do with my life so I’ve taken the initiative to learn all I can from wherever I can (mostly online) and mostly for free. Networking online and offline is critical to success in any line of business. Tim Ferriss has a fabulous post on his blog at http://ow.ly/9kpko that teaches you step by step how to gain the knowledge and experience to do anything. It’s probably what Charlie Hoehn did to get where he did. The article was written for those who started a career and got jaded and want to change course but it’s a great guide for anyone at any age. I wish I had it before I went to college.

    We’re unschooling our 3 kids which teaches kids how to learn and love the process. It completely avoids rote learning. They go at their own pace and learn about things they’re interested in and we, as parents, follow their lead – not the other way around. My husband and I see a huge difference in our kids’ levels of excitement and fun compared to kids in traditional schools. Our kids may not know calculus by the time they’re 12 but they’ll have the knowledge and skills to understand the needs of the world around them and know how to add value in a way that lights their fire. My husband and I both went through traditional schools and have college degrees and want something better for our kids.

    Totally awesome post, once again, Therese!! More people need to know that there are alternative paths of education that lead to all kinds of success.

    • Great Tim Ferriss piece; thanks for sharing! And I love the concept of “unschooling” and of following the kids’ leads.

      Also, I hope I never have children who know calculus by the age of 12 ;-). Looks like you & your husband know a thing or two!

  • Therese – do you see your brilliance above?! What if the JFDI {Just $#*&ing Do It} was JEDI {Just ‘Effing Do It} Now I can JEDI mind-trick all over the place and get some shizz done! Pure genius (no degree required).

  • Brilliant post, as always. I’m in my second job that technically doesn’t require a degree (although I partly got this au pair job & my first one because I have my degree in French). I did need my degree to teach in France, but with my drive & ambition (NOT towards money but towards my dreams), I still would have found a way to work in France for two years. I want to start teaching in the next year or two, so I’m glad I have my BA. But I know what will make me stand out as a job candidate is not my degree, but the experiences I’ve had by putting my dreams first & financial security second.

    • I love it that you’ve put your dreams first. And I’m all for degrees, it’s just that– yes, what will ultimately make you stand out are all the wonderful things that make you awesome! :)

  • I wish I knew what I know now back when I graduated or when I was still in college. I would have done a lot of things differently. The good part about my situation is that I’m not a million dollars in debt and underemployed.

    I’m still working on a game plan to SHAKE things up in a year. You’re blog is definitely an inspiration!

    • Ohh, can’t wait to hear about your game plan, Mike! ;-)

  • I think another thing that proves your theory is the fact that there are a lot of entrepreneurial schools and business startup schools growing in popularity in the UK.

  • Pingback: It takes work to become awesome at kicking ass | pjhstudios blog()

  • the short answer is: no. i don’t know any human resources people who care that i only have 2 B’s on my transcripts (boy did those B’s piss me off, too). in a sense, yes, i worked hard and landed scholarships and got jobs, but when i quit and burned bridges and lost references, all of that ceased to matter. being out of the workforce for any period of time, whether it’s your own fault or not, is a curse.

    my problem is that i am entrepreneurial in thought, but not in action. i’ll have to check out andrew’s post.

    • It took me awhile to turn my entrepreneurial thought into action… not an easy thing to do, that’s for sure. There’s some weird balance to be found between patience/being ready and taking action…

  • Sam Seller

    All the sit-coms told me that I deserved a good job if I worked hard and earned a college degree. I went to college, learned nothing profitable in class and, in my free time, that the world might end soon. I lament that I could have been a stoner all throughout high school and still landed the same lifestyle.

    You don’t deserve a job just because you listened and obeyed. In fact, that merely means you are stupid and easily brainwashed by your evil government.

    If there’s such thing as genius, then college will not make you one. If there isn’t, then college won’t even promote that illusion towards your interest. It certainly won’t allow you to setup shop and start making loads of money to enjoy the “American Dream.”

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