So You Graduated College This Month? What's Next?
Congrats! You're about to take the world on. This is certainly a time to celebrate, but make no mistake, you are embarking on one of the most pivotal times in your life. Waiting on the other side of the stage you're about to walk across is more responsibility than you've likely ever experienced before. The decisions you make immediately following college can dictate the rest of your life. Here I provide some things that I learned in the time since I finished up my bachelor's degree. The one thing I can say is that your achievement, in the larger scheme of things is very minimal to the decisions that will be in front of you very soon.
I don't mean to scare anyone, but a college degree is just not what it's cracked up to be. It's not as important as close friends and family say it is, and realistically, the world is starting to realize traditional college is the most expensive path to upward mobility. I'm here to help you have a more realistic perspective about what it means to be a college graduate, and debunk some of the myths that you may have been told:
1. You Will Make More Money
Fresh out of college I realized that my liberal arts degree would not land me a job that paid more than my student jobs on campus. In reality, education without experience basically ensures that you are positioned to land any job that barely pays a living wage, and not much more. We thought about getting better jobs the whole time as we faced this same predicament before and during college, which is why we went in the first place, right? Well, with that degree in hand, your potential employers will now see you as the best applicant, and you'll land the job, only it won't be in your field, and it won't pay much more than minimum wage. Of course, this depends on your degree and several other factors, but in my experience, it basically ensured that you could get a job, just not the glamorous ones you thought it would. This is important because those student loan payments kick in after 6 months, and you've been a broke college student for at least the last four years and bills don't wait for dream jobs. While you take any job to survive, you might find yourself stuck in a job, or industry that you don't plan on being in for the rest of your life, and when you accept work that falls outside of your ambitions, you gain that type of experience, not what you actually want to do. So what happens if you try to apply for a job closer to your major and they tell you that you have no experience! Crazy, but true. Once again, student loans and bills don't wait for anyone, so you end up trapped. What I would do, is insist on gaining the experience needed to work in your desired field right away, rather than just applying for the jobs that are available. Gary Vaynerchuk gives the advice to work for someone for free to gain the experience, which is a great idea if you can either do so on the side while you work wherever to pay the bills, or you are able to get some kind of compensation for your work. I would encourage people to use the networking skills they gained from college to look for work that isn't posted on job boards. If someone has a need, and they know someone that can satisfy it, they likely won't go through expensive hiring processes. Most of the jobs that are posted on the internet, truthfully, are jobs that no one really wants. Avoid classified postings for the most part, and look to your networks to find companies that have an immediate need for the skill set you have.
2. You Get More Respect
Nope, they lied again! If you happen to be a minority, especially with prominent features, your accomplishment may actually be used against you. Assert your data-based facts on discrimination, they'll try to put you in your place, call you uppity, even harass you more. Watch your degree, hard work, and achievement be minimized as much as they need to. Your ability to graduate won't be a reflection on your character, instead, it serves as proof as to how "easy" it is to get a college degree these days. You're black with a degree, so "they just hand those out to anyone." Let your encounter be with someone that didn't go to college, and they'll resent you for it. All in all, you're still a minority, just now you have proof that you defy their stereotypes, and that isn't taken too well.
3. (POC Grads) Racism Won't Impact You as Much
No, you're still a minority, and subject to "stay in your place" or face consequences. You already get it, realize if anything, it gets worse (see above).
4. You Are Done With Classes For Good
Nope! Learning never stops, even if you skip graduate school. Since your Bachelor's degree included several general education classes, the time spent taking a deep dive into your desired discipline was very limited. In the past it helped to have a well-rounded education, however, today, there are few jobs that utilize a vast array of skills. So I took online classes (and watched a ton of YouTube videos) to strengthen my knowledge in certain fields. How much could you really learn in 16 weeks about a specific topic? Not much, and also consider much of the information is obsolete by the time you graduate. The world is moving much faster these days, and trends are following suit. It's pretty sad, honestly, when you spend so much time and money only to find out that the best skill you can use in the future is the ability to learn information.
5. You need a Master's Degree
So, as a trained sociologist, I have the skills and knowledge to observe the interactions between people and social systems. Further, I have an interest in the systems that move people through life. As a result of this, and several years on several college campuses, I have observed that the instructors, staff, students, and anyone employed by educational institutions will always recommend more education, from any institution. This speaks to a deeply tied systematic way in which universities maintain their future in the long-term, and how employees maintain their job security. Tell me this, what successful person ever has dedicated their success to their education? Even colleges market your ability to network and live in dorms more than the classes you'll take. You only hear these things from people that have a vested interest in the success of colleges. Lastly, while I was in graduate school (I dropped out because it seemed like just a formality), students were splitting up reading assignments and sharing notes, and most of the work was group projects and class discussions that reviewed the assigned reading. I wondered when the actual learning was going to happen, and that if we as students lead the discussions, what the point of an instructor was then? I was never given the answer, so I concluded that it's basically a scam that everyone working there is in on, whether they know it or not.
To be fair, doctors, lawyers and scientists should get advanced degrees, but for liberal arts, social sciences, and even business, most of the things you need to learn are specific to each job, industry, or company, and degrees are merely expensive pieces of paper that give people a reason to feel better than other people. It's the old American superiority complex they play on, not actual knowledge, education, or upward mobility. If you find yourself in a classroom and the instructor has NO experience in the field they are teaching in, it's time to consider other options. LinkedIn Learning (not sponsoring this) has some of the best names in their field teaching online classes that will help you gain more tangible skills faster and cheaper than any degree, without lower quality students slowing you down. FACTS!