It was (and remains) the expectation of a vast number of parents in the United States that their children shall attend college. Period.
From our very earliest days, we are programmed to accept the idea that we are going to go, and if we do not, our future lives will be completely ruined — you’ve heard this one — “You’ll never be able to get a decent job if you don’t go to college.”
I smell hokum.
A terrible plan.
Six months after HS graduation I enrolled in community college, because it was what I could afford.
I signed up for Business Administration with no clue of what that meant. My first three classes were Intro. to Business Law, Intro to Psychology and Macroeconomics. (What was I thinking?!)
I dropped Business Law before my third class. Dry, boring and helpful how exactly?
Next on the agenda: Intro. to American Business and Intro. to Computers. These at least held my interest, but in the end it was not enough.
It seems that I am not good with:
1. Pick a major
2. Here is your list of first year class options
3. Go buy these books and write a check for $5000.00 for tuition
4. Come to class these three days, during these hours, regardless of whatever else is going on in your life
5. Study subjects you have absolutely no interest in, because someone else has decided that this is what you need to know for the major you picked
6. Continue to have absolutely NO IDEA what kind of a job you will be qualified to do when you are done with these classes
So what now?
Directionless for a year or so, I was hired as a typesetter without experience. While there I taught myself how to use PageMaker, Corel Draw, and graphic design principles. I learned enough to continue in printing and design for several years.
When my role as a Corporate Graphic Designer with a non-profit became unsustainable (for the agency), I felt lost again. I didn’t just leave work that I loved doing, I left a community of like-minded people who were doing good in the world.
So painful, but so necessary. This was a critical step in my career growth.
The question of college presented itself again, but even a 2-year school was out of reach financially.
It was then that a mid-size print and fulfillment house hired me as a project coordinator. Inexperienced with this specific role, I learned what I could from the other staff. That knowledge and experience led to work as a project specialist for a company in a niche print market.
This company had a Learning Management System, and I took any relevant classes I could find. I learned project management disciplines, more advanced MS Office skills, time management, knowledge management, continuous improvement and some of the LEAN principles for exactly $0.
Layoff wave 1 = survived.
Layoff wave 2 = survived again, but started to think it was time to proactively search for opportunities.
Layoff wave 3 = might have survived, but asked to consider a “voluntary layoff.” Maybe? Possibly? it was better to know it was coming. I have taken risks before.
The Project Management classes and the Customer Service/Account Management experience I’d gained, led to a project for a government contractor as contract help. My work earned 3 extensions to work on other projects, and after which the client hired me. 18 months and counting.
Is College critical to success?
Maybe? and maybe not.
Nothing that I learned in college actually helped me very much in my career.
So what did help? How did I manage to advance to roles that require an education I don’t have?
You will find that in the next installment.