Do any of us know what we want to do after college? Really? Do any of us even know what we want to study at college? ‘Cause I sure as hell didn’t know. I had no experience, but I had a degree and I assumed everything would just work out for me.
I was wrong.
Three years after graduating, I still haven’t worked a full-time job. If it’s meant to be, and I eventually land my dream position, then so be it. If not, then it is what it is.
One thing is for sure. For all of the positions I’ve held, and all of the freelance gigs I’ve completed, my actual work experience has helped me more than my degree.
Experience is priceless
I saw a tweet recently poking fun at a job board. It’s the epitome of my post-grad experience. As a young person, it’s tough finding jobs because we don’t have the required years of experience to be considered for certain positions.
Is spending four years, or more, at a university worth it? Are we just wasting four potential years of experience in search of a degree? Degrees come with a hefty cost. Often, they come with years of student debt.
I was a journalism major in college. I learned how to write a very specific way. Sure, I practiced all sorts of articles, but I wouldn’t say that my classes made me the writer I am today. Although I had some great professors who gave me tips and tricks that I occasionally use, my writing ability is 90% due to my own efforts.
I worked for my university’s daily paper, and it was extremely beneficial for me. I made my own narratives, I interviewed real people, and I published dozens of articles.
Obviously, I would not have been able to do this if I wasn’t enrolled at the school. There’s a give and take. I suggest leveraging your opportunities while you can. If you’re still in school, going through the motions and getting by in class, find an extracurricular activity that interests you.
If you’re a post-grad, think about the extracurricular you were involved in. Big or small, experience is king. You can’t put a price on it.
Experience is practical
If you work or have worked for a daily publication, you know how much of a grind it is. It wasn’t until recently that I was turned off from writing because of the two years I spent at the paper.
Regardless, the articles I wrote for the paper were much more beneficial for me than those I wrote in class. My experience was more valuable than my degree.
In class, there are no real consequences. There’s no real pressure. Sure, your grades are at stake. I say big deal. It’s just a class, and it’s just a grade. It’s superficial compared to what the real world has in store.
The articles I wrote for the daily publication have more weight because they are real stories. I went outside, I interviewed people on my own accord, and I published my stories for thousands of eyes to see.
Not only was this practical for my own sake, but for potential employers as well.
What do you think an employer wants to see? Which story holds more weight? A fake story you wrote in class, or a real one that has been published?
A recent college graduate might assume it’s alright to apply for a job and submit their schoolwork, but they should only do it if they have to. There are plenty of jobless, 3-year post-grads (like me), who are applying to the same job.
The difference between the recent grad and the young adult is that the young adult has used his time, and the pressure from his parents to get a real job and submit a story he/she freelanced for.
The “adult” wins, but not without a little bit of suffering.
Use your experience to your advantage, and don’t take it for granted. You’ve lived a long life, have gathered knowledge throughout the years, and are more capable than you realize. Whatever version of experience you have, you can apply it to your goals to achieve them.
Experience is the best teacher
“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” — Oscar Wilde
Teachers are (sometimes) great at doing what they are supposed to do. But do you know what’s even better? Experience. It’s the best teacher because it offers you a chance to learn from your mistakes.
As humans, we are subject to repeating the past. We’ve failed before, and we will fail again. We all have been down on ourselves at some point.
Maybe you didn’t get the job. Perhaps you got broken up with. Maybe you dropped a giant bowl of chili on your aunt’s Persian rug. Regardless of what you think you’ve lost, you’ve learned something throughout the process.
Make more mistakes. Fail fast and fail often. One doesn’t learn unless they make mistakes and then improve upon them.
One last thought
Experience is many things. It’s a great teacher, you can’t put a price on it, and it’s extremely practical.
It’s also beneficial for your self-confidence.
For example, my freelancing experience has taken my photography to the next level. I didn’t take these particular photos for a full-time job. I took them for a one-time contract. Every time I work on a new gig, I’m more confident in myself than the last.
Confidence in yourself paramount. You can’t do your job well unless you are sure you can get the job done.
Time + Work = Experience = Confidence = Dream Job?
The bottom line is that we need more experience, but it’s not anyone’s responsibility to offer it to us. If we really want our dream job, and we have the prerequisites, but not the experience to back ourselves up, it’s on us to get that experience.
If you’re already out there, grinding toward your goals, keep going. You don’t need anything fancy to get what you want. You need to make mistakes and learn. And, you need to get in the confidence gym and build your self-reliance muscles.
You can’t put a price-tag on self-confidence, but you can earn it with experience, rather than a degree.