I truly believe today’s productive dropouts will have more success, opportunities and find more personally fulfilling employment than college grads. High calibre grads included.
People pat themselves on the back for going to school or completing college, yet it just prolongs their time spent not producing.
I know because I was one of them. We get caught up planning and preparing for some distant future where it all magically pays off, instead of putting in real work right now to build that future ourselves.
In the real world success doesn’t happen to us. We earn it. It takes hard work building, producing and creating valuable stuff. We’re not acted upon, blessed by the Success Gods or Failure Demons. We are the actors — the primary driving force.
Sitting in class will rarely help you to become the best version of yourself. Often it won’t even help you become a much improved version of yourself!
Nobody cares about what you’ve studied, they care about what you’ve done.
Do things you find valuable
With the plummeting value of degrees (everyone has one), they’re fast losing status as a positive signal to employers. In some cases, they’ve even become a signal that someone is less suitable for employment than someone without a degree. Degrees are no longer distinguishing people who can create real value from those who can’t.
But opting or dropping out is only the first step. If you decide to switch paths, have a plan and stick to it. Keep creating, learning and growing in the fields that interest you. By plan I just mean have a stated goal. Planning your life away does you no good — always be creating.
This doesn’t mean you have to commit fully to some project right now. You can always pivot or cut your losses and change direction as your end-goal takes shape. Just make sure that you always have a ‘big-picture’ purpose for what you’re doing, and work towards that purpose. Maybe it’s learning a new skill, building a particular product or starting a website and developing your personal brand.
Don’t ask for permission
If you don’t feel ready to create something yourself, reach out to people or businesses in an industry you’re interested in. Come up with a value proposition explaining what you can offer their organisation (be it sales or marketing) and contact them. Get a job and learn while working. Far better than paying college 5 or 6 figures for tuition. No time wasted in prep mode paralysis. No ‘learning’ stuff that isn’t valuable in the real world.
The best part?
There’s never been a better time for demonstrating your ability to create value.
If you’re interested in marketing, Photoshop some website improvements that you can implement, create better graphics for their social media accounts, rewrite their terrible web copy, design an app for them, sign up to a lead magnet and get their email drip (if they have one) and improve on it or create one for them, create lead magnets they can use to attract interested prospects and direct them towards services they offer. Send the business what you’ve produced and ask if they’re interested in more. Chances are they’ll want to talk.
If sales is your thing, demonstrate your experience and capability in some way. Produce, sell and ship something yourself (it doesn’t have to be a revolutionary product). Create a video explaining the benefits of a product or service you’re passionate about. What does it offer? Why does it makes sense for those in the target market to buy? What will they miss out on if they don’t buy? This is guaranteed to make the business sit up and take notice of you.
Maybe a salary isn’t in their budget right now. You might even have to work for free early on. As you prove your worth you’ll rise fast.
Do this a few times and you’ll have a pretty impressive portfolio that you can show employers instead of creating something for each new business.
Before long you might have the knowledge, skills and contacts to start your own business. Afterall, that’s really what you were doing since the start. The business of you as an individual.
Did I stress ‘create stuff’ hard enough?
A common argument against dropping out is that employers will look at you less favourably. If you dropout and produce nothing, that’s true. Beach bums rarely make ideal employees. But if you create, build and ship — even if your venture ultimately fails — that sends an infinitely better signal to employers than completing school. Anyone can complete high school. Almost anyone can get through college if they’re so inclined. Not everyone is willing to back themselves. Not everyone can get shit done. Nothing says ‘valuable employee’ like someone who is a proven do-er. Nothing says ‘risky’ like someone who’s cruised through school or college with little or nothing to show for it.
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This post was inspired by Praxis, an entrepreneurship and personal growth program for young people. Praxis has transformed my thinking and approach to finding work in a permanent and incredibly empowering way. While the apprenticeship and educational program has proven immensely valuable to me, I believe everybody can find a ton of value just reading their blog posts and following the team on social media.
If you would like to know more about Praxis, my experience with the program or how it can help rapidly accelerate young people’s careers, feel free to contact me at bradjamesmatthews [at] gmail [dot] com