Colleges make plenty of mistakes when teaching Millennials today, but perhaps the biggest one of all is how they reinforce the idea that when you walk on that podium and get your diploma, your education is complete.
Your education is never complete. This is all the more true in an age where every young individual must compete in a job market which grows fiercer by the day.
In this market, everyone must do their best to stand out from the rest. This means acquiring new skills and talents which you may not have gotten with a four-year college degree.
But further learning does not have to mean taking out more loans and spending more money for a graduate school program.
An education is something every one of us can work on every day of our lives, and there are easier and cheaper means through which anyone can learn:
1. Volunteer to solve the experience gap.
At this point in your life, you have probably dealt with the blasted experience trap. Businesses demand workers with experience, but how can a worker get experience if no one is willing to hire them?
One way to solve that problem is to volunteer a few hours a week in an industry you are interested in. This will help you understand what working in the field may actually be like.
Furthermore, volunteering in and of itself can open up unanticipated doors. I have routinely volunteered once a week at a local museum out of an interest in history. But I discovered through that volunteering I am surprisingly good at working with children, which has helped influence my career path.
Do note that when I talk about volunteering, I am NOT talking about an internship. If you have the time and money to afford an internship, then the right internship can sometimes be useful.
But a lot of unpaid internships will just waste your time while you make copies. It is often better to volunteer a few hours a week to gain experience while holding an actual job that companies will prize more on a resume than an internship.
2. Look at online grad school or certificate courses.
Advancing your skill set and capabilities through education can help take your career to the next level.There are courses out there that can grant you options for career paths you could not do with just a four-year degree.
For example, a grad school program, such as an online MBA, are faster and sometimes more economical certificate course can help build the skills you need to advance. You can get a certificate that can qualify you for an entirely new career.
Take being a personal trainer, for example. You can study for six months, pay about $1,000 and then take an exam which will accredit you as a personal trainer. This is merely one example, and there are many more certificates in a wide variety of fields such as tourism, real estate or business.
But if you are happy where you are, then other careers can still be informative or teach you skills which interest you. Take a local class in foreign language or cooking. It can even be online such as Codecademy, which teaches you the basics of coding.
Some of these online course offer their own certificates of completion, and sometimes (though not often) businesses will value those certificates. But what truly matters is you are constantly learning and seeking to improve yourself.
3. Explore your own town.
Education is not just something done in the classroom. It's something we do every moment of our lives as we experience and visit new things and places.
And sometimes, the best way to learn new things is to explore the community around us. The internet is useful for this, as you can find interesting sites, restaurants and monuments to visit.
Look for local events, such as town council meetings or lectures on academic topics, and don't hesitate to be friendly. By taking the time to know what your community is like, you can learn new things as you see a side of your town you may have never bothered with before.
4. Listen to podcasts.
There is no such thing as “too busy to learn." And with podcasts, you can actually learn about new topics while you are busy cooking or driving to work.
A podcast is a much better way to learn about the past or to keep yourself engaged in current events instead of using the radio in your car. I'm personally interested in history and politics, so some of my favorites include "Revolutions" by Mike Duncan and "Keepin' It 1600" with The Ringer.
But just like online and certification classes, podcasts cover a wide range, so there should always be something that will interest you.
Just check out iTunes or Google Play and browse through the top lists to find a podcast that grabs your attention.