Is college worth the money and time? This is one of the biggest questions I get asked. I get this from young kids in high school to adults looking to move up in their career. I believe that the best investment that anyone can make is in themselves. Deciding to invest in an education and then spending years pursuing that education just to receive a degree is a huge commitment and shows dedication to setting a goal and actually following through on that goal. While certain fields such a medicine and law obviously require advanced degrees as a barrier to entry many other high paying careers do not. That being said there are many ways to invest in oneself other than traditional college. Since experience trumps all I am a big believer in specialized knowledge and the worst thing about college is how broad the study matter is. The people that earn the most money are the ones with a very specialized skill or knowledge. An example would be a brain surgeon compared to a family doctor, the surgeon is paid a great deal more money based off of his ability to be highly skilled and focused on one thing and be an expert in his field. I think that in today’s world where information is at our fingertips with a smartphone in almost everyone’s pocket that a college degree is no longer worth what it was to our parents’ generation. I would recommend going to college if you or your parents are able to pay for it but not at the expense of taking out student loans. I’ve heard it said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a professional, so if you devoted 8 hours a day to practicing your craft it would take 1,250 days or 4.5 years to become great at it, of course if you work 12 hour days, you cut the learning curve drastically. The best form of education is hands on experience coupled with a passion for something. Find what you love and study it until you are an expert at it.
Choosing the right career in life is one of the biggest decisions people face. I think that the best thing to do is work in as many roles as you can while you are young to get a feel for what you really like. Once you find your passion it is still good to move around within that industry to get different perspectives on how to operate and to build your network. Finding a good company and staying with them for life is a way of the past for both employees and employers. However finding a good mentor that can help you pinpoint what would be a good career fit is invaluable. I started my career in small owner operated companies and loved every minute of it. The experience and insight I received working side by side with the owner was invaluable especially at such a young age. However the one thing I learned was that many of these entrepreneurs were great at some things but not at building a business, in actuality many of them barely made enough money to keep the doors open. This can be very problematic as you grow and begin to work your way up the chain and realize that the glass ceiling is much lower than you originally realized. As I’ve advanced in my career I am very thankful for the lessons I learned from those independent operators who relied on growing sales and controlling cost to not only pay the business’s bills but to feed and support their families.
In contrast working at a large fortune 500 company or corporate America offers a host of benefits as well as some downfalls. One of the best things is the health benefits and the unlimited advancement potential. The company I am with currently offers me a great quality of life as well as many other perks such as a company phone, laptop computer, and an expense card for company related expenses. As I advance the pay and the perks get better with things such as a company car. At the age that I am now I would never leave corporate America to return to an independent owner operated company due to the lack of funds they have. However even with all the great corporate jobs in this country owning a business is still the number one way to gain wealth in America. America was founded on individual freedom for its citizens and that includes the ability to open any type of business we desire. America’s legal system is another part of what makes this country so great. The ability to own a name, logo, land, etc… Is what gives us all the opportunity to prosper? I recommend finding a good job that you can grow with and work it while you are growing your own business. While you are working for someone else remember that you are a product and you need to market yourself to your employer and to other firms that are in the market for people with your skills. How you dress, walk, talk, and act are all part of your personal brand and help others decide how much they perceive you to be worth. It is always good to be known as the person that gets things done. Not only as one who gets all your task done before the deadline but also as the person that helps others get their jobs done and demonstrates that they have a working knowledge of how not only other people’s positions operate but how other departments operate as well.