Getting Entrepreneurial with Your Major

A student came in this week interested in one of the great, though struggling industries – magazine publishing. This student is quite bright and curious, but I had to caution that the publishing industry is struggling and jobs are scarce in the field. While choosing the right major is important, the student is interested in journalism, I suggested that what is more important is obtaining the right skills and standing out. The student may be able to do that through the journalism major, but that isn’t the only option.

This particular student is interested in fashion magazines. Since Sex and the City many young women dream of heading to NYC to write thrilling articles about fabric, accessories, and trends. That dream is doable, but no major alone is going to produce that result. To even land the internship that leads to that kind of job this student will need experience. She’s landed an internship for the summer, but I also stridently urged her to make a name for herself. With all of the resources on campus for funding, and the world wide web, a fashionista without clips or a web presence is doomed.

Our campus newspaper doesn’t have a fashion writer. I suggested she pitch herself. Maybe she should start a blog, or a podcast. Whatever the method one chooses for distinguishing herself she should know that employers are indeed looking for go-getters. Employers haven’t had training programs for new employees since the 1980s, and especially not in competitive fields. They want people to be ready to go on day one. This reality is not always fair because job seekers then must shoulder huge costs trying to get their foot in the door, but knowing that the market is as it is helps one to plan accordingly.

In choosing a major, and job seeking, the world is almost like seeking out a romantic partner.

  • Employers want someone interesting and different, and not just another person like the one they already have or the one they just fired. BE YOURSELF.
  • Just like a particular outfit can get you noticed on the quad, so can the great internships or experience get you noticed in a pile of resumes. If you created a job for yourself then even better! You’ve already shown leadership. Continue to amass experiences that fit your interests and the type of work you want to do.
  • There is no set formula for snagging the job. An employer likes what they like and there is no guaranteed combination of major or experience that does the trick.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lean Into Your Gifts

Everyone has some sort of gift. Yes, everyone. It may be one that you were born with, or one that you cultivated over time based on your interests, but yes, you have one. However, unless the gift is something that is readily marketable people either ignore it, don’t value how much it’s really worth, or believe the naysayers who tell them that it’s not a gift at all.

Will You Stand Out?

Everyone has some sort of gift.  Yes, everyone.  It may be one that you were born with, or one that you cultivated over time based on your interests, but yes,  you have one.  However, unless the gift is something that is readily marketable people either ignore it, don’t value how much it’s really worth, or believe the naysayers who tell them that it’s not a gift at all.

Let’s look at the first group: those who ignore their gifts.  Somehow we’ve (I’ve fallen into this category many a time) got it into our brains that life should be as hard as possible.  We do a few things remarkably well with the greatest of ease, but yet, we ignore those accomplishments to pursue what is difficult.  Sure people should challenge themselves, but why must one ALWAYS challenge him or herself?  It’s perfectly okay to follow your natural or cultivated gift.  Bill Gates and his partner Paul Allen turned their love of computers into a billion dollar company.  Are they geniuses?  Maybe. However, they may also be two guys who found something they loved and rode it to profitability.  The point is that there may be unexplored opportunities in areas in which you are gifted, and sometimes those opportunities aren’t the ones that are readily apparent.  Any singer who got their start writing songs for other people can tell you just that.  There isn’t anything wrong at all with pursuing what comes easily to you.  In fact that may be the best method of all.

The idea that you don’t pursue what you’re best at leads to my next point.  Sometimes people don’t value their own skills.  They spend time wishing they were better basketball players, but they write poems and short stories with the greatest of ease.  Or they desire to be scientists, but have the aptitude to teach.  Sometimes this devaluing of skills is a result of what is glorified in society.  The excellent basketball player is revered more often than even the best novelist by most people.  Nonetheless, why spend useless time pining away for a skill you won’t ever have when you have great material within yourself?  Someone, somewhere is probably asking God for the very thing that comes naturally to you.  Think about that, and then go out and work on being the best at that thing.

Finally, there will be people who will tell you that your gift is no gift at all.  That you should learn to do something practical because there is no money in X.  Okay, sometimes they are right, there may not be immediate money in X, and you should plan for that. However, that doesn’t mean that will always be the case.  There are occasions where you may work in a low paying job for a while before your gift turns into your career.  Or you may have to pursue higher education so that you have the credentials to do what you’re that which is your best skill.  None of this matters.  If you can’t pursue your gift right away that is still no reason to discard it wholeheartedly!

Leaning into your gifts can be challenging, but ultimately the most fulfilling thing you can do for yourself.  The final product may look nothing like what you originally envisioned yourself doing, but nonetheless your work is valuable.  So to  every novelist who becomes a technical writer, and chemist who discovers a new nail polish that isn’t toxic, or every artist who is behind the scenes – kudos!

Education is the key to success?

The newest trend in higher education seems to be that students and graduates are blaming professors, their alma maters, and the universe for their inability to find jobs in the Great Recession.  They state that someone should have told them that their degrees were not going to guarantee them anything, and that someone should limit the number of people who can go to college because the job market is cluttered.

One blogger cries: What does it say about the state of our nation and the effectiveness of our educational system when a first generation college student with dual degrees from the best universities in America believes the only option left for her is to take out yet another private loan to get her PhD because she is unable to find a job – any job – even as a barista at the local Starbucks?

Well, I still believe in educating yourself to better yourself.  However, that doesn’t mean that I advocate not doing your homework.  You have got to spend time researching your industry.  I hope the above blogger realizes that the job market for PhDs is worse, and has been for a longtime, than the market for lawyers.  At some point you have to take charge of your education and make smart choices.

It may not make sense for a first generation college student to take out massive loans to fund their education.  While it is the dream of many to attend elite institutions, you may have to earn your degree at a less expensive one.  If that’s not the option you want then while still in high school you need to be stellar and earn scholarships.  Tons of schools are reaching out to first generation college students now, so there is money out there.  Those of you who have already graduated with your undergraduate degree may have to seriously reconsider pursuing an unfunded graduate degree.  Colleges operate like businesses, which means they aren’t in the business of handing out free education.  Nor do they come with a money back guarantee.  So before you gamble on earning a professional degree DO YOUR RESEARCH.  Try to talk to people in the field, talk to professors, talk to past alums, spend some time in the library, do a google/bing search.  There is plenty of information out there now.

Also, watch out for diploma mills, and schools that promise the moon and charge you the sky to deliver.  As discussed by this article, people who are going for trade school certificates are starting to be fleeced, and often they don’t even have a final credible credential to show for it.  One rule of thumb I tell prospective students is that if the school is trying too hard to get you to sign up quick, fast, and in a hurry then the hairs on the back of your neck should stand up.

Finally, there are plenty of people out of work right now.  The Great Recession has claimed professional and trade jobs alike.  It is semi-arrogant to believe that a few college loans and a newly minted piece of paper in hand will make you immune to what is happening globally.  Those of us who are working have had to take paycuts, accept furlough days, have dealt with the disappearance of our retirement contributions, live with roommates, etc.  Everyone is trying to make it work, and no one wants to hear about your “fancy” degree and why it entitles you to anything but the ability to look for a job like everyone else.

I’m not saying it isn’t difficult.  I’m not saying that things aren’t frustrating for those of you who do have thousands of dollars in debt and cannot find work.  However, I am saying that you may have to accept a job in a field you don’t love and doing something that you merely tolerate just until it gets better for all of us.