Advice to High School Graduates

I read an article this morning about how unpaid internships may be the collapse  of modern civilization.  I get this, but on the other hand, sometimes an unpaid internship is a good route to a career. People spend hundreds of thousands of dollars at universities that may not result a paid gig in the field you think you’ll like.

It’s possible that a long unpaid internship will deliver the same or better benefits as a BA. As a working professional and college instructor, the most honest advice I give to some students is drop out of school, then research the best company that is busy doing what you think you want to do in life. Go to that company and ask if you can pay them to mentor you in their field– a ‘reverse paid internship’, except the intern pays the company, so you don’t feel guilty about taking their time for detailed instruction, when needed.  If you’re not hired you after 2 months, you’re probably not right for the field, or you chose a company that is not very successful, and it’s time to move on.  You’ll have to figure how to work this, because loan institutions only want to give educational loans to standard institutions.  But that’s part of the education.  It usually means leaning on family, or a flexible part-time job.

This won’t work in many fields, because degrees are a short-cut for HR departments– a cookie cutter measurement that may not show how good an employee will be. Colleges can be filled with unmotivated, self-entitled souls who prefer to kick back rather than do– and that’s the last thing competitive companies want.

When I was hiring entry-level people, I paid more attention to the menial jobs they had while in college than the name of the college, like Starbucks, pizza delivery, retail clerk, car mechanic, or call center. They had learned how to get along in the real world, and were ready for a real job. They proved they could be resilient enough to learn all they needed with on-the-job training.

Needless to say, this is not a popular viewpoint. But it is worth consideration.  So many jobs I’ve had never cared to see my diploma, my course list, grades, attendance record, or letters of recommendation.  Only the colleges!

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