December 4th, 2013 by schoolbound
College is, or should be a preparation and launching pad for a long career in a field you choose because you are interested, talented and possibly gifted in that field. Unfortunately all too often graduates of a lengthy degree end up on a career path that does not adhere or even relate to their course of study in any way. For example let’s say you go to school for a Mechanical Engineering degree and then end up working as a Database administrator. Or let’s say you get an English degree and end up doing Sales. You have spent so much time earning that degree, sometimes between 4-5 years in a chosen field of study, and to never use the skills and knowledge acquired with that degree, you are essentially throwing thousands and thousands of dollars down the drain. Not to mention a whole lot of time and effort. This may be the case more with young High School graduates who are attending college for the first time, rather than the returning college enrollee who has had a taste of the job market. But in both cases I think doing the research into not just interest area but job market and job growth is important before taking the plunge.
It seems the key is to go into college with a plan, or a semblance of a plan. Even if you deviate, as long as you have an idea of a goal, then you can plot your path to a career accordingly. There is nothing worse than rambling along in college and realizing well into your term you would rather be in a different major, only to back track and take foundation courses again to reach your goal. This adds money and time to your education goals, and not to mention your budget goals for paying off your debt and getting ahead after college. If you have the years to invest in a solid and steady course of focus it can give you the time to network and plan for the next step after graduation so that you can STAY focused. A lot of time students graduate with no job opportunities, huge loans, debt, rent and bills and they are forced to take whatever job is offered first. And that my friends, is how you get stuck!
I have an art degree and my college focused on studio art. Over the course of my four years I discovered what I was skilled in as well as what I loved to create and what enhanced my ability. It was a wonderful time of my life full of self discovery and I submersed myself in creativity, all the fun stuff, but it was also totally unrealistic as a preparation for life after college. Once I graduated I had no idea how to make a living doing the things I spent my time doing in school! Most of my fellow students went on to take Graduate courses toward a Master’s degree and then on to teaching at a college level. But if I wanted to practice art rather than teach it, I needed to have some entrepreneurial guidance. I could have seriously benefited from business and marketing courses, but this was not part of my curriculum or even offered at my school. I was not prepared for the real world, I was young and naive and thought money would just come to me because of my talent, and so I subsequently spent many years post college learning those lessons the hard way. And hard financial lessons they were too. Hindsight is 20/20 and had I been looking forward enough, I could have taken these courses at a local community college while I was still a student and had that jump start. Once you get out in the real world however, the bills and reality of existence and time management hit you with a blow and some things, like holding out for that career oriented job fall low on the priority scale.
I have discussed in a previous 3 part series called Finding the Perfect Fit what you should consider when trying to find a good school, degree and career. This post differs by talking about the consequences of the decisions that you make going forward. It may help to look at our careers section of the site and other websites such as Career One Stop which can give you some insight into the salaries and education needed for levels of those careers. Information is power and that can only help you start a path of efficiency.
No one likes to waste time and especially money. But with a little planning and forethought you can stay one step ahead of the curve.