In 2013, 1.7 million students will graduate from college and enter the workforce. Roughly 340 thousand students (20%), will become underemployed. This means a life of retail with college loans to pay off, in addition to living expenses. If these students knew they’d wind up in retail, I’m sure they wouldn’t have added a $300 loan payoff on top of minimum wage!
This isn’t the first time students have received the brunt of an economic downturn. When I graduated in 2000, my friends moved to California with dreams of overnight success at super sexy startups. Six months later, they were unemployed and all their stock options were worthless. I looked overseas to get employment, as did many others.
The difference today is that we can begin to curate our own body of work more easily, less expensively, and more visibly than ever before.
After I gave a talk I at Belmont University this year, Griffin Mckenzie came up to me to tell me about her blog: griffinmckenzie.com. There, not only does she display her resume, but she collects her thoughts, shares insights, and builds a professional reputation not attached to any job.
In 1998, Tom Peters said in his famous “The Brand Called You” article, “You don’t belong to any company for life, and your chief affiliation isn’t to any particular function. You’re not defined by your job title, and you’re not confined by your job description.” What was true for executives reading Fortune magazine in 1998 is finally true for everyone else today.
Build Your Body Of Work
When Karen Bolipata moved to New York in 2008, she had $4,000 in her pocket and no contacts. The only thing she had was her photography and her writing. You can read her blog at: karenmaywrites.com. If you’d like to read her journey, find her first posts and move forward.
Writing to no one, she began posting her observations and insights. Soon, her audience of one (think: her mom) turned into an audience of 10, then 100, then 1,000. After a month, she started landing freelance writing gigs for smaller independent newspapers. She built her own career. And if she got a job with a major newspaper, worked there for a while, then got laid-off, she’s still have her body of work to fall back on. In fact, she’d have an even bigger portfolio.
If you’re not blogging, or curating your thoughts, observations or work, then you’re not building a body of work – don’t give away control of your future to an organization that can never love you back.
College Wasn’t A Total Waste… Even In Retail
Remember I said that if college students knew they’d wind up in retail, they’d never have put themselves tens of thousands of dollars in debt? Well, all that college wasn’t actually a total waste! There are two main reasons.
First, a liberal arts degree teaches us how to think. “Everyone Thinks!” you might say. This is true. However, not everyone thinks critically, as evidenced by your friend’s mindless parroting of the political pundits during the last election.
Use those discriminating thoughts to create and express original opinions about whatever it is that you love to do. Once you start this process, it snowballs, and you see great ideas, everywhere. You can’t help but construct arguments and identify fallacies!
Second, your degree taught you how to write. Sure, most newspapers write to the 5th grade level. But admit this: that your writing improved between your senior year in high school and your senior year in college. Right?
Believe it or not, most professionals (I’m making a generalization) can’t write worth nuthen’. (Joke). By demonstrating your ability to communicate clearly on your blog, Tumblr page, Twitter feed, or whatever, you’re making yourself more valuable to any employer. Not just that, but you become an asset to an organization and are less likely to lose your job.
Find Your Voice And Your Career Will Follow
If you aren’t blogging yet start. If you are, get better. There are a ton of resources out there and you don’t have to be a WordPress nerd to have a blog (though it’s fun being a WordPress nerd!)
Don’t sell your career to a company, and don’t affiliate to a job title. Instead, break free of the dismal employment statistics by doing what most other people are unwilling to do. Have a voice.
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