Hey 3.5 Readers.
Wow. Uncle Hardass was kind of hard on the graduates, wasn’t he?
Oh well. That’s what he does.
My main achievement in life is being the proprietor of a blog with 3.5 readers, so I don’t want to hold myself out as an esteemed example for the graduates to follow.
But, here are my thoughts:
WHAT SHOULD I STUDY? WHAT SHOULD BE MY MAJOR? (DO YOUR RESEARCH)
If you’re a college graduate, you’ve already answered this question yourself.
If you’re a high school graduate, you’re about to.
This is a tough one. The whole college process is very odd. We take very young people who (I don’t want to say all) but many haven’t experienced the hard knocks of life yet, aren’t aware of who they are or what their strengths and weaknesses are…
…and then we ask them at age 18 to sign up for a course of study that will dictate their profession for the rest of their lives.
Part of me wonders if maybe there shouldn’t be a post high-school period where high school graduates just work for a little while. Save up some money. Get some entry level experience in fields you are interested in to see if you like those fields or not.
Figure out a) which profession holds your interest and b) which profession you’re able to do without feeling like you want to jump out of a window because as it turns out, you don’t like it.
Youngsters are bright eyed and busy tailed. They believe things will always work out. The roughest thing to go with is spending a long time (and a lot of money) on a course study that either a) doesn’t lead to any viable job opportunities for you or b) you just plain hate it after you learn more about what the job actually entails.
I don’t want to be one of those adults that says “you kids have it good” but you know what? You kids have it good.
The Internet was in its infancy when I went to college. Back then, there wasn’t a lot of information about various career options.
Today, there’s a vast wealth of online knowledge about the various occupational tracks you can take.
Back in my day, as in your day today, when you went to some kind of informational recruiting event at a college, the faculty members in charge of the program will give you a stellar pitch. That’s their job. They’re not in the business of telling you why you shouldn’t be coming to their school to study in their department.
Now, you can go online and look up all the info. How much can people in a certain job expect to make? How much crap will they have to go through? What is the competition for jobs like? Are there a lot of graduates in that field who have been twiddling their thumbs for years who aren’t able to find a job in that field? Have their been a lot of cutbacks meaning freshly minted grads will find themselves competing against older, more experienced workers with lots of training under their belts?
What are the pros and cons? Are there stories from people who are glad they chose this path? Are there people who wish they’d never heard of this particular course of study and would gladly go back in time and change majors if they could?
Kids, you do have it better than any previous generation when it comes to researching potential majors and career paths, so whatever you do, don’t go into this blind. Take advantage of the plethora of information that is out there.
Whatever you pick, you’ll be stuck with, so research, research, research. Be honest with yourself, who you are, what you’re good at, what you’re not good at, and ultimately, if you think a certain profession is something you’d enjoy doing.
KNOWLEDGE VS. SKILLS
I have to be honest. I’ve been through a lot of school, but I don’t really feel like any of my professors passed any worthwhile, employable skills to me.
College and grad school made me smart. It made me intelligent. It filled my head with knowledge that I can crack out at parties.
But like a junkyard dog, I still had to scramble for anything good that came my way.
I don’t necessarily want to generalize, but on the whole, say in the Baby Boomers’ day, getting a college degree meant you were set for life.
Today, getting a college degree is like getting a high school degree because so many people have them.
Many majors focus on thinking and specifically, the thought processes that apply to a particular occupation.
But, if you can get some actual hands-on skills, that’d be great. If you can actually DO something, that would be awesome.
If you leave college being able to fix a computer or something that’d be awesome.
This does bring up the whole debate about colleges vs. vocational skills and I’ll just reiterate that I do think we need to move towards not making the kid that picks plumbing or HVAC repair feel like they’re dummies.
Sigh. There were so many kids I graduated with that I thought were dummies who got trade jobs because I thought, that’s the best those dummies could do and ironically, many of them do much better than this nerd today.
PIE IN THE SKY PROFESSIONS
If you want to be an actor, singer, dancer, musician, writer, or something else equally unlikely, I don’t want to be the one who stifles your dream and/or creativity.
Chances are, you know about the odds already.
The argument against pursuing these dreams is that you’ll one day find you are thirty years old, that you spent a lot of time chasing a dream that didn’t happen, it’s starting to look like your dream will never happen and you don’t really have any skills that can land you a job where you can make a decent living.
You’ll end up crying, “Oh, if only I’d become a Certified Public Accountant or a Dental Hygienist” or something.
Here’s my take on it.
I don’t want to tell you to go all out, balls to wall, after your dream because hey, the odds are against you making it.
But, in my case, I dropped my pie in the sky dream of being a writer to pursue a more traditional career path.
As of today, it worked out well, but for many years pretty hellacious.
I know what it is like to send out resumes with no responses.
I know what it is like to want to just drop to your knees and beg a potential employer to give you a chance.
I know what it is like to get that form letter in the mail telling you thanks for applying but we can’t hire you at this time.
Ultimately, all the time I spent until I finally was accepted into a traditional career path – there’s a part of me that feels like I probably would have had more fun had I just moved out to LA, waited tables by day and worked on movie scripts at night.
Where am I going with this?
If you pursue a pie in the sky dream, the odds are overwhelmingly against you.
But, the economy does suck, so you’re also going to have to fight for a traditional job too.
That’s not necessarily an invite to ignore tradition and embrace pie on the sky.
You still have a much, much better chance at becoming an accountant or a dentist than you do an actor or a gainfully employed writer.
What you have to ask yourself is how much failure will you be able to accept?
If you can honestly say that at age thirty, you won’t regret spending ten years waiting tables and going to acting auditions. If you can look at it as an enjoyable experience, that you’re glad you gave your all to your dream, then go for it.
If you think that you’ll reach age thirty and if nothing ever came of your auditioning efforts, that you won’t totally hate yourself and be horribly mean to yourself and start yelling at yourself for not becoming a dentist when you were younger, then just seek that traditional occupation now.
That’s why I sought the traditional path. I knew if it didn’t work out, I’d be very critical of myself. I’m still very critical of myself anyway but that’s just who I am. I am very mean and rude to myself.
My other thoughts:
- If you get accepted to say, Julliard, or some other big city/big name acting/performance program, you’ll definitely want to go. In that case, you’ll be making contacts in “the business.” However, if you go to college in Buttwatter, Nowheresville, I’m not sure what you gain from majoring in Theater Arts under the direction of some wannabe actor living in Buttwater, Nowheresville. If you’re in that situation, major in something useful and then explore your dream if you so desire.
- If you want to split the difference, you might consider some professions you could do where you’d earn more money, develop a good career path, and still pursue your big dream. Just off the top of my head, I feel like there are many jobs that require you to work days, nights, weekends and are very unforgiving if you take time off. On the other hand, there are many jobs where you’ll be allowed a certain number of days off per year and all you need do is tell your boss when you need to take one and boom you have a day off to go to your audition or whatever.
- I am, yet again, going to tell you kids how much better you have it than I do. “When I was your age” there was no YouTube, so I wasn’t able to make funny videos. There was no Facebook or Twitter for me to promote them. Blogging? Schmogging. That wasn’t around either. I can tell you unequivocally, 110% I firmly believe that had all this stuff been around when I was 20, I would have gotten myself on Saturday Night Live and would be enjoying my movie career today. That’s not bravado, that’s just me feeling I have skill but alas, lacked opportunity when I was in my prime. (Pssst – it’s bravado. I’m not totally sure I’d of ended up on SNL, but I can tell you I would have had a fun ass time making YouTube videos had it been around when I was young.)
- The good news for you youngsters is that all this technology could very well help you in that you don’t necessarily always HAVE to choose between traditional jobs and pie in the sky dreams. Want to be a writer? Get a traditional job in a traditional occupation. Then write your ass off on the nights and weekends and self publish. Want to be an actor? Make some videos and post them on YouTube. (Ah the rub with all this though is if you’re posting anything out to the public, you’ll probably want to be cool and tone it down somewhat because potential employers of your traditional field will be squares, beholden to the man and wary if you’re posting salacious stuff.) At any rate, keep pursuing both and either a) your dream will materialize and you can quit your day job or b) your dream will sink like a stone but at least you’ve put a lot of time and effort into a traditional job so you can move up the ranks in that profession, put food on your table, bank money, go on trips and vacations, live in a decent house, start a family, all that good stuff.
YOU GUYS DON’T COMPLETELY HAVE IT BETTER THAN I DID
The tech you have available to you at a time when you’re young and can really do something with it is amazing. Of that, I’m envious.
But, on the flip side, the world is getting scarier. The country is getting more and more divided. The economy’s worse than ever. College costs more than ever yet a degree is less likely to secure you a job than ever.
Sooo…I get it. In many ways, the world is a rough place for you.
(But seriously, I wish I grew up in a time when you could buy all the shit you need to start your own Internet TV show from Best Buy for a couple hundred bucks, you lucky, lucky bastards.)
I am a dumbass who just writes a blog for 3.5 readers. Do not take anything I said above as advice. You should in no way rely on any of it. Do your own research. Make your own plans. Make your own choices. Just don’t make decisions based on statements made on blogs that only have 3.5 readers, like this blog, for example.
Oh that leads me to my…
DISCUSSION QUESTION – 3.5 readers, what advice do you have for the Class of 2016?