University isn’t for everyone, and it’s about time we come to terms with this fact.
Despite having made the Dean’s List, I dropped out of college after my freshmen year. I didn’t feel comfortable with the debt I was incurring, and I didn’t feel confident that college was adequately preparing me for my future.
After dropping out of college, I made a series of unconventional choices that allowed me to flourish in my career with job opportunities at top firms, including a Fortune 10 telecom.
My story goes against conventional wisdom that states that you must have a college degree in order to earn a reasonable wage.
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The ability to obtain a high paying job without a college degree is more possible now than ever before. The reason for this is simple.
Being ‘smart’ has been de-valued in exchange for being skilled.
Back in the day skilled laborers were paid very well. One man’s income could support an entire family of five. This was Employment 1.0.
Then, the Baby Boomers came along and they flooded college classrooms. White collar careers began booming. This was Employment 2.0.
Today, we have a generation of Gen Xer’s and Millennials who are caught in a unique moment in history in which knowledge obtained in college has become less valuable. Employers today need employees with technical skills. Enter Employment 3.0.
A college education provides students with knowledge, but it rarely provides students with skills. This has led to the largest skills gap in human history, which provides a great segway into how to get a high paying job without a college degree:
1. Develop A Marketable Skill
The lifespan of skills erode faster now than ever before. You used to be able to learn a skill or a trade and be set in your career for 10 – 20 years. Not anymore. The first key in learning marketable skills for a high paying job is to learn not one skill, but several. The present and future workforce will reward those who are a Jack of All Trades.
As an example, if you want to pursue a career in business, it’s necessary to gain skills in traditional marketing, Internet marketing, Microsoft Office, graphic design, web design, programming, and public relations. Before your head explodes, take a deep breath. You can easily learn these skills from top professionals online, in the comfort of your own home and on your schedule. Sites like Lynda.com, Udemy.com, and Code Academy teach these skills through online courses. Depending on the platform you choose, you can begin learning these skills for as little as $30/month. It’s also worth noting that you do not need to be an expert in each of these skills. You just need to know enough to ‘speak the language.’
2. Gain Experience
Once you’ve developed a set of marketable skills, you then need to begin working on gaining experience. At this point, it’s unlikely that you will be qualified enough to earn a high paying job. That being said, you will need to put your Hustle Hat on and work pro bono (for free). Contact friends, family, and businesses and offer your services for free with the end goal being to build a portfolio of work and receive reference letters.
If you’re not willing to work for free, you can also seek out entry-level positions. If you’re able to demonstrate desire and work ethic, someone will give you a chance. If job posting sites aren’t providing adequate job leads, don’t stop there. Become your own lead generation tool. Create a spreadsheet with a list of businesses in your area that could utilize your skill set. Contact them directly and ask if they have any positions available. It’s vital to look for jobs offline, because 70% of jobs are not advertised online.
3. Develop A Portfolio
A portfolio is a business card on steroids. As you acquire new skills and work on one project after the next, be sure you chronicle your work through a portfolio. You should have a portfolio that resides online as well as one you can present in-person for an interview. A portfolio instantly lets a prospective employer know what they can expect to receive from you should they decide to hire you. Most people are unaware of the power of a portfolio. They walk into interviews with just a one-page resume’ in hand. When you walk into an interview with a resume’ and a portfolio, you will instantly rise above the others who came unprepared.