Society tells you it only makes sense to go to college. I disagree and argue there are 15 legitimate alternatives to college you should seriously consider.
See the contradiction? A guy who went to college and is the author of How To College tells high school seniors to reconsider automatically going to college.
My main concern is with people who go to college “just because” and don’t have a specific reason behind their decision.
Maybe all of their friends are going, their parents expect that, or society’s beaten them down with the pro-college message that doing anything else seems crazy.
What pisses me off is many times people don’t need college to accomplish their life goals—studies show that around 25% of college grads work at jobs that don’t require a degree—but they sign a four to six year contract because they think they have to and wind up with a mountain of debt.
That’s so messed up!
I’m convinced millions of people would be better off if they followed their passion from the start and never went to college.
So I believe you have to be clear and intentional about why you’re going to college. And if you can’t come up with that, don’t go and instead do something else productive.
Plus the true cost of college is much higher than you think. Let me explain.
The True Cost Of College
Opportunity cost refers to the fact that when you make a decision to take one action you miss a benefit of another action.
In this case, going to college means you miss out on the opportunity to work full-time.
So if you’re total cost of college after tuition, living costs, and books is approximately $40,000 a year, that’s not the true cost of college. If you could have made $25,000 a year working full-time (a low income for many of the non-degree jobs listed below), then your true cost is $65,000.
And since the average student spends six years in college—according to Complete College America and the Department of Education—not four, this makes the true cost of college $390,000.
Doesn’t look very good on paper right? That’s because college is plain and simple not a good deal. It’s overpriced and they’ve raised tuition too high.
It makes me sick that some 18 year olds are signing up for college solely on the fact that the media and society say it’s smart, then are stuck paying off debt until they’re 30.
I want to help people see the light that not everyone needs college and they can avoid this depressing plunge into debt.
Take a look at these very enticing alternatives to college.
15 Legitimate Alternatives To College
1. Work a job
Contrary to popular opinion, you can work right away with a high school degree.
All of the following occupations don’t require a college degree and some of them pay extremely well:
- Commercial pilot
- Insurance sales rep
- Medical assistant or secretary
- Criminal detective
- Physical trainer
- Loan officer
- Massage therapist
- Graphic designer
- Web developer
- Computer coder
- Casino gaming manager
- Power plant operator
- Transportation inspector
- Personal care aide
- Subway and streetcar operator
- Farmer or rancher
Obviously you need the skills for jobs like graphic designer and web developer, for example. But this list goes to show that a college degree doesn’t get in your way for most jobs.
And while your peers are paying to learn in college, you’re getting paid to learn on the job. Looks clear to me that you’re winning that deal.
2. Pursue a creative talent
Fancy yourself acting in the big screen, singing on stage, or killing jokes on a set? The time is now to go for it and skip college.
Because the fact of the matter is that it’s easier to support yourself on this pursuit than while providing for a family later on in life.
So give it all you got to become a professional actor, singer, dancer, comedian, or artist in this window of opportunity.
Spend a year auditioning for as many roles as you can and start small to build your skills.
Hustle your butt off for 18 hours a day. Split a studio with five friends. Fight tooth and nail to make your dream become real.
If it’s needed, move to a place like Los Angeles, Austin, or New York.
College won’t help you nearly as much as you can help yourself in these creative fields.
3. Go to trade school
A trade school education can lead to work in painting, woodwork, locksmithing, landscaping, masonry, locksmith, forestry, construction, welding, and other handyman work.
It’s not sexy, but learning a “blue collar” job through a trade school makes a lot of sense when you look at the numbers.
For example, graduates of trade school make $42,000 on average compared to the $48,000 average salary of college graduates.
But when you consider trade school costs significantly less and it generally takes just two years (meaning two more years to make money), the value is through the roof!
If you’re not already convinced this is a bright option, a Rutgers University study found these trade schools at close to 100% job placements. That’s nothing but impressive.
For many of you reading, you can get a fast start to a successful career through trade school.
4. Start a business
So you want to run your own business someday after majoring in business and then working in a Fortune 500 company? Stop there and hold that thought.
Would you be more experienced and business savvy through hearing lectures or by running your own business? The answer is obvious—lessons are best learned through doing.
I’m also convinced that being an entrepreneur offers these very real benefits. Running your own shop will force you to learn to:
- Develop your critical thinking skills
- Master time management
- Overcome objections and make the sale
- Treat customers with the utmost respect and politeness
- Communicate with adults and more diverse people than your friends
- Strengthen your creative muscle through new business and marketing ideas
- Network with other entrepreneurs
- Fail fast and bounce back
Plus thanks to the Internet, it’s never been easier to start a business. Spend $50 to $100 and you’ll have your website up and running.
Then the simple formula to online business success is to find a problem you’re passionate about, solve that problem, and then sell the solution. If the problem affects enough people and is a big enough pain, and your solution is good enough, then you’re in business.
So start small and you will have a chance at starting a thriving business. Don’t try to create the next Facebook, you won’t be able to do it.
And don’t be surprised if your business is profitable or it leads you to a new profitable idea. After all, the guy who sold pet rocks became an online millionaire.
5. Take free online classes
Want an Ivy League education without forking up $200,000 to pay for it? Free online courses are the solution for you.
Online learning sites like Coursera, Harvard Extension, edX, and others have made it cost-free and simple to get your learning on. All you have to do is sign up and you’re getting a world-class education in whatever subject you desire.
This way you’re getting a feel for what subjects you’re passionate about before wasting time paying for college and switching your major four times in your freshman year.
Many 18 year olds could use this extra time before jumping into college. It’s a shame more don’t.
Or you can forgo college altogether by using the knowledge and skills you learned from these classes.
You can use what you learned to pursue another alternative on this list.
If you’re interested, check out this guide to learn how to study at Yale, Harvard, and other top institutions, for free!
6.Travel the world
You could sit in a stuffy building to learn about South American history, or you could forego college and visit Machu Picchu, Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires.
Seriously just consider what would happen if you traveled the world for one year.
You’ll learn people skills by meeting other travelers and interacting with locals.
You’ll be tested in your travels to navigate the language barrier and unknown living situation.
Most importantly, being outside your comfort zone traveling will help you build self awareness to discover what areas of life are you passionate about and want to explore further.
And you also avoid any future regret for not going. As time flies and you would normally transition through college, a job, and then kids, you may never get the chance to travel the world for an entire year again.
I recommend you do it now while you’re young (wild) and free.
Now if you’re worried about costs, that’s smart to be money conscious but it’s also not a valid excuse.
Because traveling a year is much cheaper than one year of college. And you can work side jobs while you’re traveling—like teach English, bartend, freelance, sell stuff online, and much more.
7. Join the military
Another possible route is to skip college and join the military.
Serving your country is not only a tremendous honor, there’s also a bunch of tangible benefits including:
- A $35,000 salary with increasing pay the longer you’re in service
- Receive diverse training that’s transferable to your future career
- Have your college paid for (not guaranteed)
- Free health care and almost free living costs
- Free travel across the United States and overseas
I know a few people who joined the military out of high school and they all love the discipline and organization it gives them.
Of course there are some downsides to joining the military.
You’re not in control of where you’re deployed. You could be placed in a war zone at any time, depending on global events outside of your control. And although it’s rare, there is the risk of death which you avoid in college and these other alternatives.
8. Become a realtor
Whether you find yourself browsing home prices on Zillow for fun or dreaming about making six figures, another solid replacement to college is becoming a realtor.
As long as people continue needing a place to live, realtors who are good at their job will have money to bring home.
According to PayScale, the average real estate agent makes approximately $51,000—again, no degree needed.
But what I personally love about the realtor profession is your income has no ceiling. The more you hustle to buy or sell houses, the more you make.
That’s true meritocracy!
And the process to be official is simple: Take real estate courses (“tuition” costs less than $1,000—much more favorable than college), pass the state licensing test, and then start helping people buy and sell homes.
Many volunteer and charity organizations would happily have you join their team to serve with them, no college degree needed.
What’s ironic is some people graduate college to become a social worker or serve in the Peace Corps when they could have started volunteering right away.
If volunteering is your passion, you’re welcome for that four year head start.
Organizations like AmeriCorps, the Catholic Volunteer Network, and the Peace Corps is where I would look first. And a simple Google search of what and where you want to volunteer will give you enough information to start applying.
When you’re drawn toward serving others, you’ll get more out of volunteering than studying subjects you don’t care about in a college classroom. Plus, learning empathy and the value of giving back will serve you the rest of your life.
And Jesus and Mother Theresa didn’t go to college did they? The way they loved people will never be forgotten.
Again, you can always volunteer for a year or more and then go to college if you really think that’ll help your future. Why rush into it when it’s not needed to do what you love?
10. Build an audience with content
This is what I’m working on every single day: Publishing content with the goal of building an audience and providing value to them.
I so wish I started this at age 18 instead of age 21, but it is what it is.
So how is this accomplished? There are only three options to publish content and build an audience:
- Start a blog if you enjoy and are best at writing
- Start a podcast if you prefer talking
- Start a YouTube channel if you like being in front of the camera
Those are the three tried and true methods that won’t go away. My recommendation is to start with one of those and then add another or all three mediums once you’re more established.
Thousands of people are making a fortune doing this already. So the path to success is there if you know how to build a community around you.
Honestly, it’d be wise to publish content whether you don’t or do go to college. Having a personal brand and following you can take with you always gives you leverage in the future.
That leverage can be deployed to build your own business or to win interviews and job offers.
11. Go to community college
If you’re still stubborn and think you need some kind of college degree before you’re qualified to work, have you considered an associate’s degree instead of a bachelor’s?
An associate’s degree requires half the time, much less than half the money, and opens doors to some high-quality jobs including:
- Radiation therapist
- Dental hygienist
- Registered nurse
- Air traffic controller
- Computer programmer
- Police officer
- Aerospace engineer
Many of these median salaries are in the high five figures and sometimes six figures—like air traffic controller.
Plus community colleges have some unique benefits like smaller class sizes, more of the professor’s attention, more flexible schedules, and the ability to work while you’re in school.
For example, you’d struggle to get to know your professor if you’re at four-year state school with 250 people in every class.
12. Get a fellowship or apprenticeship
A fellowship or apprenticeship is so appealing to me (if I were 18 again) because they’re hands on jobs where you’re constantly learning through doing, not by hearing lectures and memorizing.
That’s why some fellowships and apprenticeships are taking form and becoming trendy again.
For example, UnCollege offers a 32 week program that includes a voyage, launch, and internship phase. It’s purpose is to help students learn outside of the classroom through experimentation and mentoring.
And one billionaire, Peter Thiel, questions college to the point where he gives around 20 young adults under age 20 a $100,000 fellowship award not to go to college. Isn’t that interesting?
On the website is the statement, “The Thiel Fellowship gives $100,000 to young people who want to build new things instead of sitting in a classroom.”
If you’re interested in learning more or applying for The Thiel Fellowship, click here.
There are also other interesting fellowships and apprenticeships that are a Google click away. If you’re diligent in searching you can find solid options.
13. Create a non-profit
Want a rewarding and life-changing experience like nothing else can offer? Look no farther than starting a non-profit.
Just like starting a business, I recommend your non-profit’s mission starts small by addressing a local need in your community.
Because you’d struggle to make a difference if you tried to take on world hunger or something as complex as cancer.
For example of decent ideas, maybe your mission is to financial support animal shelters in your town. Maybe it’s to clothe homeless people in your city. Maybe it’s to provide a free summer camp for underprivileged children.
Recruit some people who might be on board and then test the idea in the community. Talk to people or start serving and evaluate the response. Then continue to improve your service and build your team.
If this is your life’s passion, stick with it or take what you learned to found a new non-profit.
And if you do go to college, your resume will be truly rocking doing this—especially if it makes a tangible difference in the community.
For inspiration, here’s an example of an 18-year-old who started a crazy successful non-profit.
14. Write a book
I truly believe every single person on this Earth has a unique story and some important message to share with the world. Sue me for seeing the positives in humanity.
And that means you’re fully capable of writing a book before you turn 20.
What are you passionate about? What do you excel in?
And most importantly, what’s something you know a lot about and it’s popular enough for other people to care? That’s the special ingredient to writing a quality book.
I get it if you want to wait to write your book until you have something more powerful to say or a little more experience under your belt.
But just know there are some young teenagers writing books for people their age and making a killing, specifically 14-year-old Caleb Maddix comes to mind.
15. Coach a team
Are you a former football, tennis, soccer, basketball, baseball, swimming, or golf player? Have you ever been decent at a sport?
That’s about all the qualifications you need to coach a middle school, junior high, or high school team.
For example, some of my friends have gone on to coach club volleyball teams, high school football teams, 8th grade basketball teams, and everything in between.
High schools will automatically pay you in most cases.
And since many parents want no part of coaching, you can offer the local school or parish to coach the middle school team as long as you’re paid a reasonable fee for your time. You just might have to get more creative to get paid when you coach younger ages.
If you’re a sports enthusiast, you’re going to have a lot of fun coaching. It’s a way to stay close to the game you love after your time to play has ended.
Plus you get the rewarding feeling of passing down the knowledge you’ve learned and making your former coaches proud.
College Isn’t For Everyone
You have to admit after reading this that college isn’t for everyone.
I mean why would a guy or girl who wants to be a realtor, for example, spend at least four years and at least $50,000 a year at college to delay doing what they love?
It doesn’t make sense and college would only disappoint them with a mountain of debt.
Now the table tilts differently in two situations: your parents are paying for your entire education or you’re 100% certain you need to college to get your dream job (investment banker, lawyer, doctor, professor, etc.).
It’s the debt that really pisses me off so if your parents are well off and can easily take the bill then that’s a different story.
But still, thinking this decision through will get you in the habit of questioning the norm and making the best decision for you, not doing things because other people are doing it.
That will help you win down the road in life.
Always aim to live with intention—especially if you’re deciding about a four to six year college contract.
So is college right for you? Only you can answer that.
And before you decide… promise me you will consider all of the options before you blindly go to college.
P.S. If you want help exploring your future options and becoming the best version of yourself, go here.
5 Things Successful Freelancers Do At Networking Events
As an independent contractor or self-employed freelancer, your level of success depends on your ability to create and sustain relationships. The number of clients you have, the stream of work you produce and the revenue you earn are all contingent on the scope of your business network.
The more dedicated and intentional you are about forming quality connections, the more professional growth, impact and advancement you’ll experience. “By growing your network, opportunities arise, business partners appear, connections are made and trust is garnered in the local community,” says Sharon Schweitzer, best-selling author and consultant.
And in the freelance and entrepreneur world, the service you’re promoting is ultimately yourself—which makes it even harder. If you’ve ever tried to write a personal bio, you know what I mean. Promoting yourself can be challenging, but successful business owners and freelancers know it’s necessary.
As you attend various networking events to grow your network of potential client and those who can support your efforts, keep these tips in mind.
Come Equipped with Business Cards
Every networking event is a chance to gain new clients. As such, you need to present the most professional version of yourself. That version doesn’t just dress well and act polite—that version of yourself always has business cards too. This gives everyone you meet something to remember you by, while showing that you take your work seriously.
Remember that the design of your cards should not only be polished, with readable text and all the right information. It should reflect your brand and personality as well. Check out these interesting business card ideas to find inspiration and a unique style that matches who you are and the work you do.
Pro tip: Find a way to make your business card actionable or helpful. For example, if you’re a personal trainer, you could include a workout on the back of your business card. Not only is this more memorable, but you’re already helping the person who you just met—and you haven’t even done anything yet.
For some people, attending a networking event is stressful. Not only do you have to talk to people you don’t know—but you have to show them that you’re successful and worth connecting with. This is where the fear of personal failure, which was the number one fear among 1,000 Americans polled, can slow you down.
Successful freelancers push this fear aside to present a confident, successful person. To release any personal fears holding you back, use these tips from The Muse:
- Choose “non-lame” events and stick with events you’re excited to attend
- Stop saying “networking,” which makes it feel intimidating
- Volunteer at the event instead of going as an attendee
- Research the roster ahead of time so you know who will be there
- Reward yourself afterward, I.E. “If I give away all my business cards, I’ll…”
- Have conversation starters prepared
- Approach people in pairs, which may feel less intimidating
Pro tip: Practice your power poses before going to a networking event to boost your confidence. Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, suggests that standing in these power postures, and using similar body language, boosts your confidence, even when you don’t feel confident. Learn the different power poses in her Ted Talk.
Seek Contacts to Fulfill Specific Needs
One of the many advantages going to a networking event is that it attracts different people with varying degrees of experience, interest and expertise to one place. As a freelancer, this means there are chances to meet a wide variety of people who could help you, from developers for your website to potential business clients.
Successful freelancers define what they’re looking for before they step foot through the door. I.E. a mentor, client, partner, or even just a fellow creative to bounce ideas off. Keep these goals in mind as you build connections at the event and afterward. Global entrepreneur Ted Rollins suggests:
“As these relationships grow, consider how they fit into that burgeoning ‘why.’ Someone could be more valuable in expanding your business, while another person might serve you best in a mentorship role.”
Pro tip: Stay in touch with everyone, even if you don’t need their help right now. This is one of the best times to be in touch with someone because it gives you a chance to help them instead. When the time comes to reach out for a request, you’ve done the work to maintain that relationship over time.
Use the Skill of Active Listening
This interpersonal skill is highly regarded in professional settings because it shows other people that you want to form a reciprocal relationship instead of just a self-serving one. Mind Tools describes an active listener as someone who makes a “conscious effort to hear not only the words another person is saying but, more importantly, to understand the complete message being sent.”
To practice this at a networking event, approach people with an open stance, hold eye contact, remember to smile and use receptive body language—freshen up on receptive body language with this guide from Skills You Need.
Don’t forget to ask questions that start with “Who?” “What?” “How?” and “Why?” The more attentive you are toward someone, the more they’ll trust your motives.
Pro tip: Practice active listening in every area of your life—with your friends, your family and your spouse. Work toward being an active listener, even in the simplest of conversations, so it comes easier to you when it matters most, like when you’re meeting a potential investor or business partner.
Send a Follow-Up Message Promptly
Communication is critical to solidifying your new potential relationships and successful freelancers follow-up within 24 hours. When you do, express your gratitude for their assistance, offer any other relevant information that wasn’t shared in person, and reiterate what a pleasure it was to meet them.
Not only does prompt correspondence keep your name fresh in people’s minds, it establishes you as a genuine individual whom others feel secure doing business with. If the context is appropriate, you can even add personal touches like inquiring about a recent vacation they took or mentioning a common interest you share to express that you’re invested in them relationally.
Feeling uninspired? Check out these follow-up email templates.
Pro tip: After following up via email, connect with anyone that stood out to you on LinkedIn. This is a second chance to remind them of who you are, and once connected, you can casually interact via “liking” posts and commenting. This ensures you stay top of mind and makes it even easier for them to reconnect with you at any point.
Step Into the Networking Arena
Learning how to network effectively is an asset you can take straight to the bank. Move outside your comfort zone, engage with other professionals, and use these pointers to maximize your efforts and form connections that will provide value for many years to come.
BIO: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a full-time freelance writer and self-employed content marketing consultant. She’s been featured in Forbes and Business Insider and has written for Virgin, Glassdoor, Lifehack and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 and connect LinkedIn.
Why Your Salary Is Costing You Millions In Earned Income
The average person craves a salaried job the for comfort, security, and the guarantee they can pay their bills.
But a salary will cost countless people millions of dollars in earned income throughout their career.
It’s ironic that we want a guaranteed income so we can live comfortably leading up to and through retirement.
That’s what society promises, at least, until things become uncomfortable.
Once something bad happens—you get fired, laid off, don’t save enough, salary increase doesn’t keep pace with inflation, make bad financial choices, have expensive kids, get divorced—and now you’re far away from a comfortable retirement nest egg plus have less skills and determination to go make your own money.
The salaried gig looks great on the outside, until you dive deeper to see that it’s often the single biggest demotivator and limiting factor to earning more money.
Your Salary Kills Urgency And Entices Laziness
Though not entirely similar, a salary shares some common characteristics of communism.
You get the same paycheck every month regardless of your performance—pretty close to communism.
At many jobs, a guy like Bill will voluntarily show up at 6 AM every work morning and leave at 8 PM, while slacker Johnny over there shows up at 8 AM and leaves at 6 PM and is paid the exact same wage as Bill.
The paycheck doesn’t reflect the reality that Bill worked 20 plus more hours than Johnny and got a heck of a lot more done than Johnny.
Talk about unfair? The salary gig is cruel, I’m telling you.
And since that situation isn’t fair, human nature will get Bill to think, “Stop working so hard. Why bother to put in the extra hours if I’m not rewarded? I’m going to start acting like Johnny because he’s doing just what’s asked of him and the boss doesn’t notice my performance.”
Now I’m not naive to think that bonuses, raises, and promotions aren’t a thing in the workforce—a differentiator from communism.
However, those are just too much out of your control to count on and you’re not rewarded until months or years later. And they often require smart salary negotiation, which is difficult if you’re not practiced, on top of luck.
Plus, in the example above, if Bill decides to work less and deliver less value then he won’t get the bonus or raise even if there’s one available.
The idea is that a salary often persuades workers to do the bare minimum to keep their job and keep getting paid.
It doesn’t entice individuals to give their all each and every day to not only make themselves double the income, but the company double the return on investment in them as well.
Knowing a paycheck is coming has a cocaine effect where you’re addicted to that monthly guaranteed income even though it’s not in your best interest to rely on it.
What’s worse is the damage it does to your overall net worth.
Guaranteed Income Costs You Millions Of Dollars
The addiction of needing a salary will costs millions of people, millions of dollars in lost income.
Let’s take a look at the multiple reasons why a salary sets you up to fail in the chase towards wealth.
For one, the average salary increase in the US doesn’t match the potential of a hustler who gets to decide their own income based on their work ethic.
A May 2017 forecast from WorldatWork predicts that salary increase budgets for U.S. employers will grow 3 percent on average in 2018 across most employee categories.
Say you make $50,000 a year at your 9 to 5 job you despise. Are you going to bust your butt for 261 work days in the year for a 3% salary increase? I’m not. We’re only talking about $1,500 at that rate.
The work compared to the payoff doesn’t add up to a good deal. It’s not motivating to me. It shouldn’t motivate you.
I could work at McDonald’s and come out with more dollars per hour than that thievery.
You’ll drag your feet for a 3% salary increase (+$1,500), but perform like a workhorse if you have a definite opportunity to double your current income (+$50,000).
That’s a difference in $48,600 between the two of them for the year and this is just the beginning. The difference is exponential over the lifetime of a career.
Second, when your income is entirely in your hands—be it as a beginner entrepreneur, commission sales rep, recruiter, or other job—your butt is on the hot seat from the get go to perform.
There’s no room to take it easy if you want to eat that week and keep your business alive.
Plus, you’ll be motivated to save extra money since this can turn into the business’ emergency fund or a payroll account to hire some contractors or full-time employees.
Meaning each dollar you earn has a higher purpose than eating expensive meals and treating yourself to materialistic clothing purchases.
And by investing in your business, your company and you personally will take home more profits than if your income was tied down by a normal 9 to 5 job.
I’m not surprised when I look at the richest people in each state only to find that none of them are salaried works but entrepreneurs and business owners.
Now you don’t have to be an entrepreneur, but you do need a job with no ceiling on your income if you want to get maximum performance out of yourself and the rewards that come with it.
Third, the rate of your learning is immensely sped up when you have to rely on your own work ethic to make money and pay the bills. You can’t afford to be out of the know in your industry if you want to compete with your competitors.
This is the pressure that forces you to gain knowledge and then use that experience to win more deals for yourself.
Plus, you can compound your knowledge to make more money in the future or consult others on the keys to success based on your experience. These opportunities aren’t there in the corporate world.
By getting off the addicting salary drug and choosing your own medicine, you force yourself to provide value to others so you can ultimately get paid what you’re worth.
And the more patient and skilled you become, the greater this income increases over years then decades.
That’s how your income grows by hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, which adds up to millions, instead of 3% and $1,500 (if that) every year.
Work Like You’re Not On Salary
You only get to do this thing called life once.
Why take the safe and boring road with a salaried job that is like driving a minivan straight on a flat road until retirement, when you can take the thrilling road in a sports car up a mountain with jagged cliffs and unbelievable views?
Bet on yourself. Work your face off. And work like you’re not on salary.
By mixing things up, you’ll discover if your company rewards you for going above and beyond what’s asked of you.
And if they do incentivize your efforts then you don’t need to find a different job. Maybe it doesn’t though and you see the writing on the wall: you’re worth millions more than you will ever earn here so you find a better job you love.
It’s like any pursuit in life, you need to get out of your comfort zone to truly push yourself, grow, and become the best version of yourself.
Happiness comes from personal growth. So take the jump and make the most of it.
Millions of dollars are nice, but the feeling of personal satisfaction from working incredibly hard and getting rewarded for it will far trump the money—every time.
What You Should Know If You Start A Career In Marketing
Silvia Li, young hustler and marketer extraordinaire, contributed this one of a kind article.
When college students majoring in marketing graduate, they expect to land a job in which they can apply all the skills they learned during their four years in school.
When I was a freshman, that’s what I thought. Looking back, I was naive to think that way.
Marketing strategies are changing every day. Consumers are behaving differently every day. Generations are shifting. And textbooks, unfortunately, haven’t changed in years.
Simultaneously, competition for marketing jobs is insane.
You have to stand out among many other graduates to land a job where you can make enough to pay your bills and loans, while having enough to travel and enjoy personal life post-graduation.
So what should you know before diving into a career in marketing?
What does it take to get a job in marketing?
What do you actually need to know to enter the real world of marketing?
Without real marketing experience or projects, there’s a lot you can learn ahead of time to maximize your chance of landing a marketing job.
In my career working with the world’s top entrepreneurs on marketing, I have learned a number of lessons that I wished I knew on my first day as a marketer.
To all of you starting a career in marketing, here’s a list of lessons and things you can do to prepare before starting your first job.
The list is a collection of advice from all the lessons I’ve learned – including my experience launching the largest startup publication on Medium to trending globally on top storytelling sites to working on digital campaigns that have trended internationally and creating global movements.
It takes more than a resume to work with the best talent in marketing
When I set my sights on becoming the best marketer in the world, I knew I had to surround myself with the best.
I started by providing value.
I reached out to one of the best entrepreneurs in Los Angeles who ran an education technology nonprofit called Yang Camp. And I sent her a list of ideas that I thought would help her grow her organization.
I didn’t know if the ideas were any good, but they certainly got her attention. I didn’t need a resume to get the job.
Don’t get me wrong. My resume was helpful but at the time, but other people might have looked more qualified in paper.
I had told myself and told others that I would find the best ways to provide value and that my resume didn’t completely reflect who I was.
I created partnerships all across Los Angeles with schools and nonprofits to ensure our curriculum was being taught in different schools and afterschool programs across the city.
We worked with Microsoft and Girls in Tech Inc. to bring together over 100 young students to learn about STEAM.
I created campaigns that everyone in the Los Angeles area saw.
Little did I know at the time that in order to work with the best, it wasn’t about my resume. It was about being resourceful, strategic, and resilient.
Since then, I’ve signed up for a lifetime of tackling complex problems and working with the best talent in the United States.
Most of you have had a summer internship somewhere, perhaps a startup or famous marketing agency or well-known organization or nonprofit.
Guess what? So do hundreds of people in your school. The fact that you had an internship helps, but it doesn’t necessarily help you stand out and show that you’re the best candidate.
It might get you an interview but it’s still not enough to show who you really are and what you can accomplish.
Companies are seeking folks who can come up with new things so extracurriculars or projects that show you were a key asset are always a plus.
To show real impact in marketing, you need to show that you’re up-to-date with the latest trends.
As mentioned earlier, marketing is changing every day. Own your resume – show your uniqueness, your value, and your impact.
Find a team that will empower you to learn – Teamwork makes the dream work
To maximize your satisfaction at work, find a marketing gig where collaboration is part of the culture.
Trust me, this will reduce misunderstanding. It’ll establish a well-connected community with ample opportunities for you to grow and learn from executives and other managers.
While companies that let you do your own thing will be fun and allow you to tackle new challenges, working directly with a team will provide you a lot more mentorship and guide you in the early phases of your marketing career.
During the interview process, make sure that they have open communication channels and continuously boost employee engagement.
During your interview, ask your interviewer if the organization encourages everyone to regularly report their likes and dislikes.
Do they help employees feel like an integral part of the company’s grand vision? If their answer doesn’t make you happy, make sure to ask more questions to understand where they are coming from. If you completely disagree, maybe it’s not worth working for that organization.
Corporations with pre-set hierarchies make it tough for employees to give feedback or learn new skills. That’s why you need to find the best fit and balance. Read the job descriptions well and find a place where you feel comfortable.
When I worked at Startup Grind powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, the largest independent startup publication in the world inspiring and connecting 1,000,000 entrepreneurs, I immediately knew that my boss was a leader.
Since day one, he encouraged me to own projects and try new things. I could sense it during the first interview call that he was someone to trust and who would empower me to dream more.
Throughout my time at Startup Grind, I learned all things about marketing including public relations, content marketing, SEO, social media, and influencer marketing.
Crazy thing is that I learned by example and by doing my own research.
Because my team trusted me and worked with me, I was able to grow and launch the largest startup publication on Medium.
Early in anyone’s career, you’ll have multiple ideas to make your organization grow. Write them out on a list and share them with your supervisor. She’ll have feedback.
If my boss, hadn’t given me an opportunity to try this new project, I wouldn’t have grown this publication, which at this point, has been read by millions of people.
The content of the publication has now been syndicated to large media outlets including BBC, The New York Times, and more. It has even surpassed the White House’s Medium publication, which is pretty incredible.
As a marketer, I’ve been lucky to work with the smartest people on Earth. I’ve been able to work with serial entrepreneurs and New York Times Best Sellers.
But none of these collaborations would have happened if I didn’t work with a team that trust me and empower me to grow.
Make sure you find that early in your career.
Marketing isn’t all about brand awareness and viral campaigns. It’s about business impact.
Marketing innovation has made huge leaps and shifts in the last few decades but there’s something that hasn’t changed.
Marketing strategies need to be tied to creating revenue or reaching a goal in the short-term and long-term.
When you launch a new strategy, you need to ensure that you have an overall vision on how each thing you create leads to a greater impact in the organization. Your video went viral! Great!
But did the right audience see it? Did they share it with other people that are interested in buying your product? Make sure it does!
During my time as Head of Marketing at Hostfully, a venture-backed startup focused on the vacation rental space based in San Francisco, I built a marketing infrastructure that ensured that every single marketing stream would lead to possible sales.
To do so, we needed to figure out where our users were and where they spent the most time.
I spent days researching and building the different personas of vacation rentals. I created a content strategy that would promote our brand without mentioning our name.
Instead, our main goal was to provide value to customers, which would ultimately lead to more people referring others to our blog. Our blog became a large percentage of our traffic and led to more active and paid users. In a few months, we brought tens of thousands of users.
Business impact needs both quantitative data and qualitative data. They will both show you what’s effective, what’s not effective, and whether your hypotheses made sense.
Effective marketing campaigns focus on creating content that users get value from and eventually will convert to paid users.
You need to be ready to think critically and understand who your users truly are. How can your company serve them to be better?
Make sure you know this in every organization you work at.
Mentorship and freelancing – Learning outside of work
Early in my career, I learned the importance of mentors. From day one, I found people who I looked up to and wanted to learn things from them.
I found Twitter to be one of the best tools to network. Twitter, in fact, changed the face of my career as a marketer. I met the best talent in Silicon Valley through this social platform.
I followed their conversations and engaged with them on a daily basis. Little did I know that I would get to know them in person. Because of these initial Twitter conversations, I had the privilege of working with them to launch the first Startup Weekend focused in the Latinx community.
This event held in Oakland brought together entrepreneurs in the Bay Area who were eager to build products.
Do you know what else has helped me to become a marketer? Freelancing. As you see, I’ve worked with all sorts of organizations throughout my career.
How did I find these? By building a brand online.
People have read my blog for years and have seen my thought process and experience. This has led to getting cold emails from founders and venture capitalists reaching out to work with them.
Last year, I worked as a content marketer with devAcademy, a tech company in Peru where I developed the company’s first content marketing strategy that led to ten thousands of unique views in just a few weeks.
I also revamped their website content to improve their user experience and conversion rates.
This job was very fulfilling because I got to work with an entrepreneur who is a hustler. Not only did I learn about the tech ecosystem in Peru, but I also learned more technical skills and what it takes to become an entrepreneur.
If you’re a marketer, you need to learn multiple skills. Go learn outside of work – network, read a book, freelance, and volunteer on projects that you’re passionate about.
These are all of the things I wished I had known before I started my marketing career. If I could go back in time, I’d try to accomplish all these things earlier in life.
I hope you found this list beneficial in planning a successful marketing career.
Make us proud!