I have been advising you to take control of your career for over 12 years here on Career Opportunities. I continue to believe that it is of the utmost importance that you manage your career instead of letting it manage you. Today, I am extending that advice beyond your work and your career. Starting today you must also take direct responsibility for your own education.
A second item is now available. A 4,600 word transcript from my talk, Career Compass: Finding Your Career North from CareerCampSCV.
Through budget cuts and legislation, our American system of higher education is being priced beyond reach or destroyed entirely. While I will rue the day it occurs, there may come a time when many of you, or more likely, your children, will find it difficult, if not impossible, to gain a college degree. In such a world, you may need to look to other, perhaps older, methods to gain the education you need to succeed.
Your self-directed education
Regardless of whether you are able to follow the traditional college route, or find yourself unable to attend school, you must take a self-directed approach to your education. While I was able to attend a state college in Ohio due to both federal and state grants, the official part of college only took me so far. I often tell others that I learned as much, if not more, during my time outside the classroom. I spent most nights managing or performing in theater productions during my time in college. During the day, I deeply explored my new found interest and skills with computers and technology. My class time gave me a good grounding in the educational basics that everyone needs, but it was my own self-directed behaviors that deeply effected my later life and work choices.
This self-directed education has continued ever since. While I have never returned to school for a graduate degree, I find that I have constructed my own, personal, degrees in business, technology and writing through my own initiative. Each of my days is filled with self-directed education, such as reading the current literature, following the wealth of Internet-based information, organizing projects and running my own business and household. Whenever I find myself interested in a topic, I dive in wholeheartedly, learning everything I can about the topic. You should do the same.
What interests you most, right now? Art? Politics? Literature? Management? Business? Pick a topic and dive deep. The knowledge and skills you gain will be very important for your current work and your overall career. Even if you don’t have a diploma stamped with your name and degree, if you are able to demonstrate knowledge and skill in a particular area, you will find opportunities available to you. Don’t dismiss the power of a self-directed education?
Mentors, Internships, Apprenticeships and more
As a college education becomes more difficult to achieve, the importance of personal mentors, apprenticeships and guilds increases. Are we returning to days of old, where an apprentice learned at the knee of their master for several years before striking out on their own? It is hard to say, but it is still worth your time to explore these ancient arrangements to direct your own education.
Who do you know, or who can you contact, that has the knowledge you desire? Are there professional groups dedicated to your area of interest? It is your job to find out. It is your job to pursue the information you desire and need. You may have to get very creative in developing your own apprenticeship. You will have to educate people about how these arrangements once worked and how they can be updated for the 21st century. Still, you must do it in order to take responsibility for your own education.
The fact is, you should probably be doing this even if you are enrolled in a traditional college environment. I firmly believe the combination of both methods will better prepare you for any career you might decide to pursue. Just as I learned much outside the classroom, you should, as well. Never ignore an opportunity to expand your education.
The world is changing and we must all change with it. It is impossible to say what will become of the higher education system over the next 10-20 years. Regardless of what occurs, though, you can help to insure your own career success by taking as much responsibility for your education as you do for your career. Direct your own education or others will do it for you. To paraphrase my constant admonition here at Career Opportunities, you need to “Build the Education You Deserve!”