A fear that many people have is being stuck with a “dead-end” job. This is why more and more people are attending colleges. The expectations of today are that people need a college degree (or more) to get the job they want. Unfortunately, running off to college and getting a degree is not the cure-all to avoiding being stuck. If this is true, what is the answer? This is the last in a series of posts to help give some ideas for what to do while at college to give you an advantage in the world. Read the other parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.
I recently sat down with one of the best advisors/professors I know. He has one of the most interesting and inspiring life views I have ever heard. As this is the last post I will be writing in this series, we might as well discuss the bigger picture of attending college.
What Are You Here For?
You are in college, but what for? For most people, the answer is related to, “I need to get a job.” This is true; however, quite a few people would say that purpose of universities everywhere is for people to gain an education. This purpose is to bolster people with broad knowledge, critical thinking, and problem solving skills. A person with these abilities would theoretically have more skills to approach jobs with.
Unfortunately, we live in a job market that is putting more pressure on the education system to teach technical skills needed for many jobs. This has reduced the practical usefulness of an education focused on learning numerous broad topics (for opinions on the subject, here are a few articles to read: Career-Oriented Education vs. the Liberal Arts (The Atlantic), Memo to Trustees re: Thomas Fiedman’s Revolution Hits the Universities (Inside Higher Ed), MOOCs, History and Context (Inside Higher Ed)). It is up to you to fill in the gaps in your education in way that will build your life knowledge. Taking classes for your major is not enough to gain the life experience needed. When I talked to my trusted adviser, here were his tips to college students for success and happiness:
- Push yourself out of your comfort zone.
- Have some humility (you don’t know everything).
- Strive to learn about the human condition, no matter your educational path.
- If you are in a more technical degree program, find what it means to you to be what you want to be. (Examples: How does an engineer fit into the folds of humanity? What do you wish to do with your technical skill to make the world a better place?)
- If you are in a non-technical field, take time to pick up some transferable and/or technical skills.
- Try and plant yourself into places you do not think you will fit. (Example: Don’t like talking to people? Take an Interpersonal Communications class.)
If you are someone who thinks only having a degree can get you by, think about these questions: Do you want the CEO of a company to only have enough education to understand how to make the products being sold? Do you want your engineers to only know how to build things, but not create new ideas? Do you want your entrepreneurs to know how to sell things, but have no clue about the product being sold? Do you want a teacher who can only talk about the technical aspects of the subject, and cannot relate the subject to new learners? A broad education allows for people to piece together information from many realms of study. This can help sustain a complicated world. In the end, having technical skills, AND also being able to perform other functions is how to make yourself more marketable in the job hunt.
So, to be more successful in your ventures, never stop learning. Discover what you strive for. How can you make the world better? Having structured and well-thought goals and opinions about life will create a stronger, more confident you. A stronger, more confident you is a better job applicant. I will end this post in the same manner I ended the previous five: if you don’t want to get stuck, don’t sit still. Be proactive. Never stop looking. All of those clichés are applicable. Whatever you do: don’t do nothing.