Design your own University Degree experience
If you managed to resist the temptation of rushing off to University or you want to explore another path I salute you for your moxie. I can imagine how daunting the feeling is, after years of institutional education, to be creating your own path rather than attending classes, submitting homework and taking exams.
You have known nothing else since you entered this way of life and now 15 years later what do you do? Perhaps you may be fearing that you may be missing out as some of your friends will be going to University. Other friends may continue working at their part time jobs possibly moving to full time basis. You may be feeling pressure from parents and other family members who are questioning what you are going to do with your life now.
Well I’m here to tell you to have no fear, you are still a very young soul and will be student of life until your last breath. University will always be there, all those part time jobs will always be there. The most important thing for you is to get some experiences and figure out what would be the right thing for you to pursue with you life.
How so? Well now that you are not going straight to another three years of institutional education you have given yourself some time and space. Here’s what I would now advise myself to have done after college.
Work intensely at your part time job for a few months and then go travelling for a solid month. This will give you big mental and emotional break from the education system. Go to places that you always wanted to go to. Also, go to places that not only have beautiful scenery but will expose you to things that will make you grateful with what you have. This will give you a sense of perspective and will hopefully suppress any feeling of entitlement that you may have. Ideally, make arrangements to come back to your part time job when you are back from your travels. Great, hopefully you have had a great adventure but now you are now back home. What do you do next?
With you working part time you have still given yourself the space and time to figure out what you should be doing with your life. So with that spare time you need to be conducting experience experiments with yourself. This is you committing a month or three months in practicing the the career that you think you want. If you want to be a writer, buy a few books on how to write and then start writing a little bit everyday. But don’t just stop there you need to be around people who write. So go to Meetup.com and find a writers group for you to hang out with. There you’ll be able to find people that are doing what you want to do and maybe even find a mentor for yourself.
Having a mentor in the field you want to do is one of the best things that you can do as they have gone through the journey and so can direct you to where you want to be in minimal time and effort. Keep repeating this cycle for about a year and see which of those paths bring you alive the most. Try things out first to see if passion follows, be it anything creative, starting a business or learning how to code. Do this for a year and hopefully you have enough experience experiments under your belt to focus on one path.
Your second year should be committing to that path. Make sure you go to enough meet ups and events so that you are surrounded by people who are doing the thing you want to do and can offer you valuable mentorship. This is where you will spend your year learning and building up your portfolio of projects that you have completed. This is crucial as it’s your portfolio that will lead you to paid employment.
Now the third year comes. You are in a great position. You have found something that you love to do and have one years experience in doing the thing you love. You have accumulated a great network and have a mentor. You have no student debt. It’s time to start applying to internships by which you have set yourself up well as you will not be a newbie who is only good for making tea and coffee. You have a portfolio to show that you have the desirable skills that an employer would want. Hit up all the places that you would love to work and make sure you have one great presentation that shows a great story of one of your projects.
Keep going until one of them says yes. Work no more than three months for free or minimal wage. After three months that employer would give you an official junior position or you can get a junior position else where as you would now have three months of full time industry experience. It’s time to leave that part time job if you have not done so already.
Congratulations! You have established your career in an industry you love, are getting paid and have no debt all in the time it would have taken you to complete a University Degree, potentially in the wrong subject, with no industry experience and with a huge amount of debt. Here’s to designing your own path.