A while back, I posted this on Proofread Anywhere’s Facebook page:
A while later, a PA reader wrote in and asked:
When I read this email, I let out a loud “YES!” — because I had that new post marinating in my mind about “true job security” and that a degree isn’t really necessary to succeed (read: make money!) in today’s digital world. I just hadn’t finished writing it yet… but when this email came in, I knew it was time to get ‘er done.
It’s gonna be a LONG post, but I think it’ll help wake up some more of my cyber friends — and help them realize who’s really in control of their success.
[Note: the audio Cassondra’s referring to is found in this post: Why Proofread Anywhere Almost Never Existed [FREE DOWNLOAD]]
My College Experience
I graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida in December of 2009 with a degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, and I have a minor in German. I lived with my parents while I was in college and commuted 30 minutes each way. I worked a part-time job most of the time earning between $7.50 and $8.50 per hour.
In 2007, I took two semesters off from my degree program to live abroad in Germany where I took German-English translation classes and traveled to 13 different countries. This is where I got my start as a proofreader working remotely. I proofread college papers for German students and got paid online. I think this experience was also when I subconsciously made the resolution I wanted a flexible life. I wanted to work for myself.
If you listened to the interview with Jodi, you learned about my first post-college corporate job experience. It was my first — and last — “real” full-time corporate job, and it was enough of a disaster that I knew I never wanted to go back to that life or anything that even remotely resembled it.
Did My Degree Help Me Make Money?
My honest-to-God answer is NO.
The degree did not teach me anything I needed to know to do what I’m doing today.
Everything I know today I learned after I graduated with my bachelor’s degree.
My résumé writing skills got me an “A” in my professional writing course… but I didn’t learn those skills in that course because I already had them. My résumé is what got me my first corporate job, but guess what? I got that job three months before I graduated college — I got the job without a degree.
One might argue that communication is applicable to everything, but to be frank, I chose that degree because it was broad. I was also on full scholarship “and then some,” which means I got money back each semester because my scholarship paid for more than what I needed.
(And speaking fluent German is fun and awesome, but let’s face it: it’s useless unless you’re helping tourists… who already speak English ;-).)
I knew I didn’t want to do anything technical like medicine, computer science, or engineering. I knew I liked communicating with people. I knew I hated being ordered around by someone else (a boss). I knew I wanted to work for myself somehow… I just didn’t know how.
Here’s What College Didn’t Teach Me
My degree did not teach me how to proofread. It did not teach me how to build a website. It did not teach me how to write riveting blog posts like this one for Proofread Anywhere. It did not teach me how to market myself or find clients. It did not teach me how to use social media.
I needed to know all of those skills to really succeed in my online ventures… but I learned them on my own with various online resources that were either free or cost a tiny fraction of what my degree cost. If I was not on scholarship, my degree would have cost me a ton of money (about $30,000 for in-state tuition… not including books or supplies), and I can honestly tell you that if I’d paid it out of my own pocket, by the end of the four years, I would have been pissed that I’d paid for it. (Pardon my French… but I mean it!)
Many of my college courses were fluff taught by professors who were worn out and just there for the money or the tenure. Half of it was literally the same stuff I learned in high school: astronomy, anthropology, US history, algebra… I spend two years re-learning the same stuff I learned in high school, and a solid 85% of it I have never used.
I think back and wonder if I’d spent those two years learning social media, marketing, blog writing, website skills, and started my business while I was still in college, what would’ve happened?
I’ll tell you what would’ve happened: I would’ve dropped out.
The Fable of Corporate Job Security
Many people still believe in the ever-popular fable of corporate “job security.”
They think you’re “secure” if you have a “stable job” with health benefits. Some people genuinely have that — especially if they’re tenured or have some kind of contract in place that prohibits their employer from firing them. But the rest of the poor souls working for someone else, even those who love their jobs and are in the most secure job situations, fail to realize they’re still working for someone else — someone who can literally make up any reason they want to take your job away, or if you’re in an at-will employment state, they don’t need a reason at all.
Maybe you’re reading this thinking, “Oh, my boss would never do that to me!” I hope you’re right; I really do! Then you just need to ask yourself, do you really want to work for someone else? You’re a tool in someone else’s shed that’s helping them finance their cars, their kids’ college tuition (#irony), and their credit card debt. Who knows what else?
You’re spending the best hours of your day writing their story.
Why not write your own story?
Corporate Culture Ain’t What It Used to Be
Before the Internet, things were different. My husband’s parents worked for the same company for forty years, and they loved it. They were grateful. But they didn’t have much of a choice back then — the Internet didn’t exist and it was much harder to create your own income. Now they’re playing a bit of catch-up and are absolutely fascinated, even dumbfounded, at how my husband and I have been able to create income for ourselves using just our laptops.
And working for the same company for decades on end, well, that just doesn’t happen anymore — not because people don’t want to work that long, because many do (although with the early retirement trend, that’s changing too!). Companies have become more cut-throat financially, and they’ve realized that the system is creating a virtually never-ending supply of eager 22-year-olds willing to work for peanuts. It’s cheaper to fire long-timers who’ve accumulated lots of raises over the years, replace them with fresh, blank-slate college graduates, and pay them half of the long-timer’s salary — with an income cap so there’s no way that college graduate could ever hope to make what the long-timer was making in that same position… which eventually forces them to quit, opening up the position to another brand-new college grad about five years later, and the process begins again.
So the long-timer, who likely has never done anything else but their job for the last decade or more, is suddenly out on the curb with only the skills specific to that particular job and industry.
The long-timers can’t always fall back on a degree if it’s been that long, either — if a potential employer sees you’ve been in the work force for quite a while and it’s been a while since you’ve been in school, you’ll often get the “you’re overqualified” pleasantries.
Companies simply do not want to teach what they consider “old dogs” new tricks.
Stay-at-home moms often experience a similar phenomenon when they attempt to re-enter the workforce. It’s tough to find a traditional job that will pay you more than peanuts if you haven’t worked in the corporate world for so many years. “Things change at lightning speed,” they say. What they mean is what you knew 10-15 years ago just isn’t relevant anymore.
And they’re right.
It’s the OPPOSITE of Hopeless
Things have absolutely changed at lightning speed.
But that doesn’t mean your situation is hopeless. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
Companies may not want to teach you new tricks, but you can teach yourself new tricks!
Things have changed for the worse in the traditional job market… but things have also changed for the better for those who can’t get hired in the “real world” or for people who just hate working for the man (like me :-)) — all thanks to the Internet.
The Internet offers infinite possibilities… but not everyone has realized it. A lot of folks still have a tragically narrow view of their own potential when it comes to creating income for themselves and solving their problems. They still think the only way to make real money is with a degree and a job working for someone else (or you get lucky and win the lottery) — some folks even have a useless degree already and think the only way they can solve their financial problems is with another degree!
Don’t fall into that trap.
You see, real job security isn’t about degrees. It isn’t about “who’s hiring.” And it definitely isn’t about “the economy.” Real job security is about skills.
If you have skills, you have power.
That power can change everything.
College Doesn’t Create Income
Why isn’t college the key to job security? Because college doesn’t create income. You do.
Do you have the same bachelor’s degree that everyone else has (a non-specialized 4-year degree, like mine, is about as useful as a high school diploma these days), so you can compete with everyone else for the same entry-level jobs? Or do you have a repertoire of in-demand skills to create income for yourself without the help of “the man”?
Many of my students don’t stop with proofreading. They realize they’ve learned one skill — without going to college for it — that they can use to create income, and then it’ll kind of dawn on them. Why stop here? “I can add in other skills to my work-at-home arsenal that are useful to people all over the world and create even more income.”
So they do.
Proofreading, just as an example, is related to several other easily marketable skills — transcription, scoping, and even digital reporting. Once you know the industry, you can build on what you know to offer more, earn more, and best of all, never depend on a company for income again. If work’s slow, you know exactly what to do to drum up new business. If you want to take a vacation, you can choose to take your work with you, put an assistant in charge, or go off the grid completely.
Learning Changes Everything
You know how I always say: “Learning changes everything.” ?? I said it in the audio download Cassondra referenced in her email.
Well, it’s true.
Don’t be roped into the victim mentality that the system is out to get you; the jobs just aren’t out there where you live; or that nobody’s hiring right now.
Hire yourself. And fire the ridiculous notion that you need someone else to give you the privilege of creating income. You don’t. It’s all you.
Don’t chain yourself to a desk working to finance someone else’s dream. Invest in your own by learning in-demand skills you can use to earn income from anywhere whenever the heck you want.
Obtain skills. Create income. Be free.
BONUS It’s not just me! The country’s broken student loan system is a hot topic right now. Check out the cover of this month’s issue of Consumer Reports:
You don’t need to buy the magazine to read the headline story, which is actually an abbreviated version of this article from Reveal News. It’s super long but super good. Happy reading!
UPDATE: Did you have a positive experience? GREAT! I didn’t.
I got this email on September 27, 2016 from an angry university faculty member (click to enlarge):
Ouch, right? I did feel a bit insulted to have been looked at through what seems like a dirty window, but I felt it necessary to reply respectfully to clear the air on the issue. I don’t want to fight with anyone, and it’s never my intention to insult someone who’s had a positive experience with college. I’m using my platform to communicate with the people who, like me, haven’t had a positive experience.
Here’s my response (click to enlarge… and YAY for paragraphing!):
Did this post resonate with you? Do you have a similar college or first-job experience? Ready to throw down the gauntlet and make some big changes? Have a story to share? Comment below!