The youth of America always make me laugh. I have met too many recent graduates that have been sharing their sob stories with me. These studious students have spent four years of high school preparing for college, then four more years hoping to attain that 4.0 GPA -- and now, they are drinking their sorrows away because they can’t land a job.
Most of you will no doubt argue that this is all due to the poor state of the economy and the lack of job availability. In a sense you are right, but on the other hand, I’d like to argue this: the job market is as distressed as it is because of all these college graduates.
This is the thinking that got the U.S. economy into the mess that it’s in now: If I study hard, go to school, graduate college, everything else will simply fall into place. In a sense, the new age American dream is its own demise. It’s basic economics — the laws of supply and demand; certain jobs do require college graduates. But the higher the supply of these graduates, the lower the demand.
If we keep on pumping out these graduates, but do not increase job availability, then we end up with a surplus of graduates. A surplus of graduates increases the unemployment rate, which in turn leaves the economy in a worse state. The worse people believe the economy to be, the less they will spend and the more they will save. Fewer sales mean less of a need for workers.
And then companies are faced with a decision to make: will they fire the recent college graduates that are willing to work for pennies in order to hold down a job, or will they fire the more experienced workers who no doubt have more to contribute to the company, but are also much more costly? Whatever decision the company makes, the outcome is the same: the economy, and all those functioning within it, are going to suffer.
This is where I have no choice but to point my finger at the college graduates themselves (an argument can be made that the blame really lays on parents and their inability to morph their thinking along with the times, but in the end it is their children that make the decision to act or stay inactive). The fact of the matter is that we have too many workers and not enough bosses.
Everyone dreams about being their own boss one day, but are under the illusion that you have to climb up some sort of corporate ladder to get there. Sure, working at the same company for a decade or two may very well get you to where you hope to one day be — but why wait so long? Considering the state of the economy as it is, you may be waiting until your deathbed.
There is one thing that is, and always will be, worth more than a college degree: experience. I once took a college course and found myself sitting next to this guy in his mid to late 30s. I could tell right away that he was quite intelligent and it got me wondering why a man so bright would still be working on his undergrad degree.
One day before class I caught him and struck up a conversation. It turned out that my new friend had started working on a bachelor’s in business over a decade ago, but managed to land a job running errands at a finance company. He went to school and worked for a semester or two, but his superiors quickly realized that his intelligence was being wasted copying papers and getting coffee.
And so he left school and his journey up the corporate ladder began. 10 years later, he finds himself as head of a department with dozens of college graduate employees under him — while he himself never graduated college. It turned out that while he may have not had the proper schooling, he had the smarts — and let’s be honest — the balls to take what he wanted.
Eventually he decided to take some time off from work and go back to school to finish his degree (at this point paying for college was not a problem at all, and neither were any of his classes, since he had more first-hand experience than half of his professors).
I bumped into him last year after he had already graduated; he is now working for Charles Schwab in a higher, better paying position than he had when he took his college education vacation; he’s way ahead of where he would have been had he finished college in a timely manner and managed to land a job directly following.
That’s what college is — a vacation. It’s a vacation from the real world. I say this not because I went to school for fun because I was privileged enough to have my parents fund my living; I say this because when you start working 40 or more hours a week — or in my case anywhere between 60 and 80 — while going to school, you start to realize how enjoyable it can be to sit for a few hours without having to do anything but learn.
School is about learning. Life is about learning. You can either go to school and hope that something magically lands in your lap — which is really never the case — or you go to school for enjoyment and for the learning, while hustling on the side. Or, if you are really gutsy, don’t even bother with college and start your own company. Most companies fail within the first year or two, so if yours does, you’ll only be slightly behind the curve if decide to return to school.
The truth is: the sooner you start learning from the real world, the sooner you will find success. School is great as far as it can teach you basic knowledge and allow you to network. However, going to college is not the end — it’s only the beginning. You can either go to school and hustle afterwards or multitask and hustle while in school.
The former will make your first few years more pleasurable, but will leave you hurting down the line, while the latter will leave you bruising from the beginning. But the latter will not only bring you to success in a shorter period of time, it will hopefully allow you the privilege of creating jobs for your fellow Americans.
Paul Hudson | Elite.
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