NPR ran another piece today on how college graduates aren’t finding it easy to find jobs. Immediately, one might ask “should they?” I mean, they’re fresh out of college – who really thinks college prepares you for anything like corporate life? Sure, high school does. High school is about cliques, conformism, accepting authority with minimal resistance, and going along to get along. High school is great prep for most corporate environments, if that’s what you want. At least the pretense is less about education, despite the parents that still put stickers on their SUVs proclaiming that kids who do well on tests are “smart”. Yeah, smart at something.
But college – come on – college isn’t about prep for work at all. It’s more like an emancipation camp with sex, depressants (beer), stimulants (coffee & soda), and food with high sugar and fat content – the things normally used to ‘turn’ an asset, if you’re trying to get him out of the nest of whatever intelligence agency currently runs him. College is a weaning ground, not a training ground. It’s also a means of indebting people significantly for years, or else tapping their parents’ resources (either way, it’s cashflow) to fund an enterprise that makes more money by spending more money – the campus. It’s enormous business in the US, and it’s sort of like the barrier between you and the rest of life – you get through it by paying your dues, literally.
What fool would pass up a chance to bilk your future earnings or your parents’ past savings for $40K-100K or more? It’s like taking candy from a high schooler – and selling it back to them as pizza and beer, of course. Look, most of what’s spent on any education is fluff, padding, and waste. The actual cost of a certification (let’s forget education – it’s all been reduced to a slip of paper, now), a little vocabulary training, and a handful of books with some teachers set up like an obstacle course, and big brother type TAs to run you through the generation of documentation, so it looks like you’ve been doing something) is miniscule compared to what you spend. There’s nothing there, really, other than the screwing, beer, and pizza, you can’t get online – and you can get that stuff online, too, if you’ve half a brain.
Modern university is a system of convincing you that there exists some mystery quotient that can’t be located in Google, that you need to be successful in landing a job, but it’s really just a piece of paper, a pack of condoms, and some empty cans on the floor, with maybe a concert or two thrown in. That’s why so much of it is moving online, where the pricing structure for “evaluating” (grading) your work, something that can be assigned to a teenager at minimum wage, is inflated on a grand scale. The mystical quotient is no longer in the brick and mortar but in the “evaluation” and “administration” it takes to grade some papers and have Kinkos mail you a certificate. Somehow, they want us to believe it takes roughly the same kind of money or even more to make that happen. Just wait – you’ll see “virtual” lab fees, if they’re not there already.
And still, it’s really just a system of checking your specialized vocabulary (whether that’s made up of terminology, names, or theories – it’s still just dictionary material), and giving you a piece of paper – one that’s not a license to do anything, but at best is a hall pass into a corporate job that, often as not, doesn’t actually exist. Usually people ask me “so what’s the solution”, and I raise the eyebrows, because I don’t claim there is a solution – I’m just identifying the nonsense – it’s up to you what you do with it.
But in this case, I think I’ve got one. Stop going on NPR and saying you’re surprised no one hands you a job after your four years at school, or less (tho they stretch it out, because it justifies the fees) if you do the same thing efficiently online. Instead, start a business or start contracting. And don’t whine about capital. You had the credulity to toss huge bucks at the higher learning machine, and you can’t cough up some spare change for business cards and a web site? Start a business and do some actual work. Or try contracting – the beauty of contracting is that you get to prove you know what you’re doing, with less risk to the client, and less commitment from you. If you’re good, or need experience, contracting can demonstrate the one and provide the other.
Screw the job market. It’s not worth mourning – it’s been dead for years, and it’s still just decomposing. And the next logical step, when you find out this works, is do I really and did I really need the university at all? After all, running your own show, as contractor or entrepreneur, means you hire yourself. And last you checked your resume, you were qualified, right? Did you really have to pull out that B.S. to remind yourself of that? If you can do it, you can do it, and the paper doesn’t matter, for one heck of a lot of areas of work, including a lot of the ones people are complaining hold no jobs.
So stop job-hunting, and start bidding on work. Sure, sure, if you’re wanting to teach in that very same university system, or its junior equivalent, or work for the government that created it, you’re going to need that paper. What, you think they’ll take you if you’re not a believer? It’s like your grandmother’s church, man – you gotta get baptized all the way to get in the choir.
But if you’re not out for that stuff, and you really are wanting work, just consider how that might become a fast reality without going in debt. Maybe you could even talk Dad into repurposing that college fund into that capital you don’t have. Take 25% of it and, if hard work, savvy, and a desire to learn don’t land you clients, you can still afford to go to a state college, and wait tables part time.