stick it to the man

Boycotting College vs. Changing College

stick it to the man

We can talk all we want to about how college should stop doing this and start doing that, or how it just should not be a requirement, etc. etc. We have been talking all we want to for years now.

Are we changing anything yet?

In some ways, we are. Though we are still in the minority, the rise against higher education is happening. Some of us have started our own businesses, some of us are traveling the world. Some of us have sought life’s answers outside the doors of a university only to find, years later, they are led back to those doors, with tons more purpose and determination.

This morning I read two interestingly similar articles sent to me by my friend Todd and my mom, respectively: “My Fellow Americans, It’s Time to Boycott College” by Matt Walsh, and “4 Radical Ideas for Reinventing College” by Margaret Rhodes.

In the first article, Matt Walsh (a man whose ideals and ideologies I usually detest but we seem to be on the same side on this subject I’ve done my best to get over myself) details a story about his friend who couldn’t get into a field he had years of hands-on experience in because he lost every job prospect to a recent college graduate.

The entire post is very stand-up-and-rise-against inspirational/motivational stuff, but what he is proposing is, unfortunately, worlds away from happening, if ever – let’s literally boycott college. Let’s just not go, not advocate for our children to go unless they want to be a neuroscientist, and I guess by default all those lazy employers will realize, “oh man, all of my applicants only have real-life hands-on experience, so which one am I supposed to pick??”

This would be a fine and dandy notion to entertain if we could actually just convert the majority of would-be college-goers to not going to college and then go around explaining to businesses the drop in degreed applicants – it might take a few hundred years, but it could happen!

The second article explains how Design Students from Stanford University put together a video interview project with subjects from the school and from other backgrounds such as leaders of rehabilitation programs and people from varieties of different careers. (The second half of the headline of the article, “Drawn from Stanford Research”, is highly misleading, sounding as if this was an official academic study; and though it is absolutely not, the Design Students came up with good points regardless.)

The Design Students took into consideration the thoughts and feelings they were hearing again and again in these interviews and came up with the “four smart proposals for reinventing college.”

Mostly, these proposals boiled down to all the stuff we’ve been saying for a long time. “Liberal arts” degrees don’t apply to everyone or ever major. Classes need to be less lecture, more hands-on. Picking a Life Path right out of high school is stupid (but high schoolers are the only ones who see this, and not the grownups?). Et Cetera.

Like I said, we’ve been saying things need to change. But are we going to change it? Yes? Then how? What are you going to do right this second to change the entire college-centered system of the western world?

*blink* *blink*

Now, I will grant you that those students at Stanford are indeed taking their findings and starting a true campaign for universal life-long learning.  The official website is set in the future ‘looking back’ on how the higher education system was transformed around the year 2025.  It’s really, really cute.

But.  Perhaps the whole notion shouldn’t be how we are going to change the world by reinventing college, or how we are going to change college by reinventing the world.

That is not going to work, and we cannot just go around in life expecting anything that doesn’t work for us to change around us so that we can have a better chance at success. The antelope doesn’t just loaf around thinking, “Well if things would just get better in the food chain I wouldn’t HAVE to be on the alert, I wouldn’t have to drop dinner at a moment’s notice an run for my life, I could eat in bloody PEACE for once in my life, why doesn’t somebody DO something???” No. That antelope fucking pays attention and RUNS LIKE HELL. So – life lesson from the antelope today: pay attention and run like hell. You aren’t going to succeed without a degree if you’re just waiting for the system to change – you’ve just got to go succeed anyway. It’s a hard, hard life in the safari – but don’t give up. You’ll make it.

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The Internship is the Key

Firstly, in case you missed it, I was recently interviewed on The Sociable Homeschooler by the amazing Vivienne McNeny.  We talked about my new little book, “Dreaming YOUR Dream“, about my education growing up homeschoooled, and about my thoughts on college lately.  Check it out!

intern1-1024x645Some people think that internships are only for people in college. Those people are wrong. Internships are for whoever wants them badly enough. Sometimes internship-giving companies and organizations say they only want people who have or are pursuing a college degree. If this is the case, and you do not want to jump through such timely, expensive, and potentially boring hoops, then I have two other suggestions for you, which may spark other ideas.

But first, the general steps to acquiring The Internship:

  1. Find a company or organization – online, through word of mouth, etc.
  2. Research them, their purpose, and their mission thoroughly
  3. Arrange a tour and meeting with the company or organization (if this is somehow not feasible, perhaps you could find a Reliable Cohort to go in your place: though, if you are really serious about this internship, it’s best to find it within your own means)
  4. Take everything into consideration and apply with the company/organization’s best interests in mind, not yours. (i.e., what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.  See, “How NOT to Get Hired.”)
  5. They may want a resume, cover letter, letters of recommendation: unsure of how to get these together? E-mail me – I am working on a tutorial!

This is often enough for getting into the “entry-level” internships – the less picky ones.  Now we will cover what to do if the internship narrow-mindedly requires you to have sat in some relevant classes at some institution of higher education:

First of all, this is probably an “advanced internship”: prior experience required. A degree or degree-in-progress is the most recognizably concrete evidence of knowledge today.  However, it is not the only evidence.  What your future internship-givers really want is concrete evidence that you have a good amount of hands-on experience, relevant knowledge, and the drive and determination to be a great intern.

How do you get this?

  • “Entry-level” internships: 1-3 internships, ideally each building on one another in terms of duties, responsibility, learning experience, and skills developed.  Do not complete these internships without securing a letter of recommendation from at least one person overseeing your work – certificates of completion don’t hurt either.  Document your experience.
  • Volunteering – often volunteers have intern-like responsibilities. Always look for opportunities to volunteer, especially at relevant organizations.  Same goes for volunteering as does internships – try to leave with a voucher of how wonderful you are.  And don’t forget to document!
  • College students spend a lot of time in the books: it can’t hurt to do the same!  When you read a book (or article, or watch a movie, etc.) on your subject, write or film an essay or review on the book, and upload it to your blog or website. When you apply, you can send an e-mail with links to these reviews/essays.
  • Present your non-college case as earnestly and confidently as you possibly can when you apply. (If you are unsure of your speaking abilities, attend a local Toastmasters club for a bit; if your writing needs improving, a good word-wise friend can help).
  • In case I didn’t emphasize it enough before: document everything you do!  Pictures, blog posts, video, art, whatever!  Prove that you are learning and growing in these experiences – it is VITAL to showing you can be just as good as any old college student retaining what they learned in class just long enough to regurgitate it on the test the next day before moving on.

If you are dead gone on this particular Super Awesome Internship and want to go on and apply to them ASAP instead of in another year after building up your resume, keep in mind you may be aiming a bit to high just now. But if you’re going to do it anyway, please take heed to follow these steps:

  • Apply with the same amount of zeal and earnestness in both writing and speaking as I mentioned before, and present your less-experienced case as smartly as possible.  Perhaps spend a couple of nights studying salesmanship before filling out the application.
  • Emphasize and highlight any and all even moderately applicable experience, and please keep in mind what I said in the general guidelines: focus on what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
  • Beseech them in the application to, if they cannot accept you as-is, at least oblige you with suggestions/leads for ways that you could gain the experience that they are looking for in an intern at their company.

As a reminder, do not put all your eggs in one basket: apply to more than just one or two internships, just as you would apply to more than just one or two colleges.  And don’t sit on your rump all day waiting for a response – pursue more experience and knowledge in the field(s) of your choice every day.  Your dream is out there just waiting for you to live it!

 

The Value of Trade School in a Bad Economy

Arthur Posey is a retired high school guidance counselor and freelance blogger specializing in issues that relate to education (including education reform, TEFL and the importance of vocational schools). When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him rafting his favorite rivers or fixing up his motorcycle.

A few short decades ago, all it took to land a decent job was a high school diploma or a GED.

Flash forward a few decades to 2013:

In the last ten years, the price of higher education at a four year university has risen drastically. According to an article on CNN.com, tuition at private nonprofit four-year colleges has risen by 60% in the last decade. That’s nothing compared to public four-year colleges, whose tuition rates have increased by 104% in the same amount of time. It’s hardly a surprise that student debt has surpassed credit card debt for the first time in history, with over $1 trillion owed by students. Meanwhile, the job market continues to shrink. College graduates are having a harder time finding jobs that have anything to do with what they studied in college.

So what’s one solution to this problem for people who find themselves unemployed? Trade school.

For years now, higher education has been framed as a necessity, as opposed to an option – and now the American economy is suffering a shortage of skilled workers. The shortage stems from the cultural emphasis on the importance of attaining an undergraduate degree, combined with the social stigma associated with trade schools; culturally speaking, highly trained blue-collar workers (plumbers, carpenters, welders, etc.) are often looked down on by their white-collar counterparts, despite the fact that they often make more money than the average college graduate.

According to an article posted on Forbes.com back in May, there’s a growing deficiency of skilled workers in the United States. Our economy needs skilled electrical technicians, boilermakers, crane operators, masons, plumbers, power line technicians and pipefitters. The article on Forbes.com goes on to explain that the gap will only increase in the near future, since many of the people who currently hold these positions are approaching retirement age. If we don’t do something soon, we’re going to see a labor scarcity that could significantly damage the American economy. What people don’t seem to realize is that we’re not going to fix that labor shortage by sending more kids to university.

In a bad economy, having a trade or vocational education is better than having a traditional 4-year degree, for a number of reasons:

1. Trade school takes less time to complete. It takes most people four years to earn their undergraduate degree – it only takes an average of two years to finish trade school. This means you’ll spend less time in the classroom and more time getting valuable hands-on experience.

2. Learning a trade is cheaper than an average education at a four year college. A recent statistic cited on CNN Money said the class of 2013 will graduate with an average $35,200 in student loan debt. That is an absolutely astronomical amount, considering the high unemployment rates amongst recent graduates. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who went to school on a full-ride scholarship, paying for college can be a lifelong endeavor.

3. America needs skilled workers. The current shortage of skilled labor is adversely affecting the economy. Trade school can fix this—students who complete trade school are ready to immediately enter the workforce. They have the skills and know-how to fill the rising demand for skilled workers, which is a huge advantage in an economy where undergraduate degrees are barely worth the paper they’re printed on.

Americans are tired of the higher education system. People are looking for ways to better themselves that don’t require massive investments of time and money. Vocational education could be the answer they’re looking for. If we want to help get the American economy back on track (that is, if we want to fix the labor shortage and stop outsourcing blue collar jobs overseas) without sacrificing ourselves, our time and our money on the altar of higher education, we need to start promoting other, often marginalized options like trade school.

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Check out more of Arthur Posey’s writing on alternative education:

Inspiration Avenue: The Myth of Higher Education

Uncollege: Vocational Schools: A Great Alternative

How to NOT Get Hired

help wantedThis past week I have been on a mission to hire a couple of people for the shoe shop I currently work for.   You would think that in this economy, with this many unemployed people, and college students having trouble finding jobs, and basically there being a huge amount of people looking for work, that it would be really easy to find a couple of folks willing to put in a good 40 hours for decent pay.  But apparently, hardly anybody really wants a good job, because if they did then they would put in the effort to follow basic instructions and to appear professional.  Right??

You would think.   But, as I’m wont to say, you would think a lot of things.

In the spirit of… well, a lot of things, I have put together a little instructional for all you College Rebels with all the secrets, straight from the hiring manager’s mouth: How NOT to Get Hired.

1. Don’t read the actual hiring advertisement.  Don’t even skim it.  Really, the only reason you even need to click the link at all is to get the e-mail address to send your inquiry to.

To enhance this effect, don’t actually send a resume or cover letter, just e-mail the hiring manager with a message inquiring for more information, or just a straightforward “Help me, I need this job!!” will also suffice if you do not wish to be contacted for an interview.

2. Copy and paste the same resume to every half-decent looking job advertisement on Craigslist.  It really impresses the hiring manager that you put so little effort into a little resume-tailoring towards the type of job at hand.  You could even impress this person more if you include a similarly copied-and-pasted cover letter; see below.

3. Write your cover letter and resume using as much disingenuous superfluousness as possible.  Don’t include any actual examples from your life or previous jobs/experiences that would actually make your cover letter stand out from all the other cover letters a person receives.  When the hiring manager has to look over dozens of cover letter submissions, she really likes to see the same one from “Resumes and Cover Letters for Dummies” over and over again.  It makes the process of elimination go faster, after all.

If you get the chance, by the way, never hesitate to add in your cover letter, good key sentences like, “The position requirements and my skills are a perfect match” and “I know that I would be a great fit and would be able to contribute immediately.  I am very interested in becoming a part of your team. Your facility would gain an individual who is dependable, motivated, and personable.  I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss my skills and experience at a beneficiary meeting.”

— Let’s pause a second here to examine how writing a cover letter like this is not going to land you an interview, at least with me:

  • It has no concrete examples to back up any of the claims this person is making.  If you wanted to be considered for that ‘beneficiary meeting’, how about: “I would be a great fit because I am a bit of a shoe aficionado and I could easily converse with customers to find out what type of shoe they are really looking for.”
  • “I am very interested in becoming a part of your team…. [I am] motivated, and personable.”   If you are interested, SHOW me!  Write me a cover letter that is detailed towards MY shop!   That would also display motivation!  
  • And if you’re so personable, why don’t you write me a real, genuine cover LETTER from your own heart?  Your words and your actions are not lining up and we haven’t even gotten past the first step in the application process.   

I would much rather in a million years get a two-line, misspelled, run-on sentence that came from the heart of a person who cared about each job they were applying to than three paragraphs of pretentiously well-written bull.

4. In the spirit of How to Not Get Hired tip #1, skim over the text of the advertisement just enough to get the gist, and then send your resume.  Never mind that the hiring manager asked for a resume, cover letter, and three references.  Just send the resume, and maybe a reference or two, if they were already on the resume.  Hiring managers don’t care about details, and they probably won’t even notice that you neglected half of what you were instructed to do.  That doesn’t reflect on your ability to be on time or to perform simple job tasks at all, no sir!

5. Don’t bother with simple grammar and formatting of your cover letter and resume.  It doesn’t reflect on your ability to be reliable and professional that you can’t seem to remember that you are applying for a JOB and not texting your BFF.

Seriously: as indicated on your resume, you did in fact go to high school.  Don’t they teach you how to write correctly in high school?  I never went, so I wouldn’t know, but I’m pretty sure there are still English classes that teach you how to do simple things like:

– Capitalize: “hi, my name is jessica and i saw your ad on craigslist”  OR “Hi, my name is Jessica and I saw your ad on Craigslist”?
– Punctuate: “Hi my name is Jessica I saw your ad on Craigslist I am really interested in working for you I am very dependable a good listener organized…” OR “Hi, my name is Jessica.  I saw your ad on Craigslist and I am really interested in working for you.  I am very dependable, a good listener, and organized.”
– Basic spelling: “ur ad on cl was amazin how on erth do you git a job at ur place??” OR “Your advertisement on Craigslist intrigued me and I couldn’t stop thinking about what I could do to get a job at your shoe store – so I started with using correctly spelled words in my cover letter!  What do you think?”
– Eye-friendly formatting: Think sentences.  Paragraphs.  Make sure your computer didn’t space things strangely if you copied and pasted something from a word processor to the body of the email.  Be clear, concise, easy on the eyes, and when in doubt, use bullet points.
– SPACES: spaces go between words so that you can tell when a new word is starting.  Spaces also go after punctuation marks:  You,don’t,write,a,sentence,with,no,spaces,after,the,commas.  It is an indication of lackadaisical tendencies, which I’m not looking for in a future employee.  Sorry.

So guys, I hope that helps you know what to do when you don’t actually want to get hired by someone.  We College Rebels can be Employment Rebels too, after all.  Who needs The Man??

But seriously.  Go be awesome and genuine and stand out from the crowd.  How else do you expect to land your dream job, with or without a degree??