After yesterday's post, about how stupid grad school is, a lot of people asked, what is an alternative to grad school?
This is a great question.
I see this picture outside my window at least once a month.
I have only a little idea of what’s going on. Should I go to graduate school to figure it out? I could. I could get in. And it’s clear that the next stage in my life will involve some sort of work related to farming. A business. Or writing. Or marketing. But I’m not going to graduate school to learn about agriculture because I have tried going to graduate school to get a jump on my job prospects and it doesn’t work.
When I graduated from college, I was supposedly going to graduate school in history. But I kept writing entrance essays about why I wanted to tell stories about people and history is a good way to do that. And finally, my professor who had stood by me for four years, getting undergraduate research grants for me to study mass movements in colonial America, said, “Forget it. You don't want to be a historian.”
What she really meant was, “I'm not pulling strings to get you into Yale.”
And that was the only place I applied. Because she said she'd get me in.
Every job interview I went on seemed stupid: An incredible combination of not enough money to live on and a job description that was one step up from slave.
So I played professional beach volleyball. I got as high as #17 in the US rankings. But when I went back down 32 I had no competitive urge to get back up. So I knew I needed to do something else.
But I couldn't get a job. I mean, I could. Working for my boyfriend. But that had sucked before. So I knew it would suck again.
I took the GRE and scored in the bottom 20th percentile in quantitative reasoning, which got me into an English master's program.
It took me a year and a half and $15,000 in loans to realize this degree would never get me a job.
I tried to date a few professors, but they were already adept at judging whether or not a grad student was too messed up.
Now I'm going to tell you what I did to make things come together in my career.
First, I stopped doing work that wasn't going to lead to a job. I got a C in Victorian Literature, a D in Film and Literature, an A in modern literature only because I plagiarized from the New York Times Book Review.
Meanwhile, I taught myself HTML before people knew what the Internet was. I presented a paper at the Dartmouth Technology Conference while my fellow English grad students were writing novels.
I left grad school a month before it ended. I just left. Went back to Los Angles.
I was the thinnest I have ever been in my life because I had no money for food. People worried about me and brought me leftovers. I ate them. This was happening when you had to send out resumes on thick, expensive white paper, and I used food money for postage.
I got an interview 50 miles from where I lived. I borrowed a friend's car and got the job.
I was hired to run the whole Internet for a Fortune 500 company, Ingram Micro. My job was to enforce the AP Style guide even though I'd never read it. I was in charge of the web development team even though I didn't know anything about development besides the HTML pages I wrote in grad school.
I gave myself a graduate course in Internet. And a graduate course in copy writing. And a graduate course in management. I read books. I read magazines. I tried stuff out and took way too long and then tried it again.
I worked 15 hour days, and I felt like I was a student. I was learning all the time.
So it's logical to me that this is what everyone should do. Find a foot in a door and then start learning everything you can to open that door wider.
I got fired for having sixteen non-work projects on my work computer. At the time I was horrified. Now I think it was the inevitable result of me taking control over my own education.
If you are thinking of going to graduate school, you need to understand that the process of discovering what value you bring to the adult world is a very hard process to endure. Because you are probably smart, and you like to learn, and most jobs are not about paying you to learn. You have to create that for yourself.
The best thing I did is that I kept my learning curve very high even outside of school. I saw where the opportunities were, and I started learning in that area, trying to figure out where I fit.
So look. Brazen Careerist has a Social Media Bootcamp. Everyone who is thinking of going to grad school should take the course. It's $245, which is nothing—nothing—compared to grad school loans. And the course can show you a way out. The Bootcamp is about possibilities. A course cannot answer your big life questions for you. But it can show you that you have more options than you think you do.
If you are thinking of going to grad school, it’s because you don’t like the choices you see in front of you. Maybe nothing gets you excited. But you can use social media to bridge the type of learning you loved to do in school with the type of learning you can get paid to do. And you can use social media to see how to make jobs for yourself that get you excited.
It might seem like a harder path to sign up for Social Media Bootcamp instead of getting a graduate degree. It seems harder because you won’t have someone’s stamp of approval. But credentials don't get the job. Experience does. So, in fact, Social Media Bootcamp is the path of least resistance. Your safety net is not a degree, but practice learning new ideas on your own and implementing them. So you know you can do that again and again.
Life should be a process of learning and doing, learning and doing. Grad school is all learning. It's an imbalance that is not fair to you, and not right for you. Create your own grad school. Open your own doors. Sign up right now.
[Note: The bootcamp registration has passed. But so many people have asked me about signing up that I am offering a one-hour bootcamp alternative. Email me for details: firstname.lastname@example.org]