Dear High School Students

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You’ve been told your whole life that if you make good grades, go to a good college, and work hard, then you will get a good job after you graduate. And this may be the case for some, but over half of all college graduates are underemployed, meaning they work at a coffee shop or something they are overqualified for, or they are unemployed. 7 out of 10 graduates are in debt from student loans. More grads are living with their parents than ever before.

Why is this happening? Because technology has changed our world drastically and the education system can’t keep up. We originally created public school to train people to be factory workers. That’s why there are bells, discipline, and we are taught to do what we’re told or face the consequences. But we don’t need factory workers anymore, we need innovators, coders, designers, marketers, salespeople, and leaders.

We need people who think outside of the box, don’t need to be told what to do, and can connect well with people from all over the world. We need people who embrace change, are open to new and changing ideas and can adapt to new industries.

There are other options other than a traditional college education. There are boot camps, programs, and other new opportunities popping up everywhere. My advice to current high school students is to explore all your options. Maybe you want to be a nurse, a doctor, an engineer, or a politician, and these jobs will require a degree, no doubt about that. If you are sure you want to chase one of these roles, then yes, go to college. It’s the best option for you.

But if you don’t even know what career path you want to follow and what you want to study, why not take a year off from your education to figure out what you’re good at and what you want to do. Worse comes to worse, you could just enroll in college a year later than your peers.

Think about all the things you could do instead of sitting in lecture halls and taking tests. We have so many different resources now. You could travel abroad to find yourself or you could take a 10-week course on almost anything to see if you like it. You could take online classes on almost anything you like to do. You can reach out and connect with people working in all types of roles to find out if that job is something you want to do every day.

I’m a UX designer, and there was no such thing 10 years ago. There are no established degrees in universities for becoming a UX designer, but currently, there are over 150,000 open UX jobs around the US. The only way to be hired is to have an amazing portfolio, with lots of experience on different projects. The recruiters don’t care about a GPA or how nice or famous your university was. They only care about your talent and what kind of value you can produce for them.

It’s time for younger people to understand the importance of self-branding, creating valuable projects, and the importance of good communication. We are taught to follow rules and traditions when we should really be challenging them. I’ve taken a different path and I truly feel way ahead of most of my peers. I’ve built my confidence, created work I’m proud of, and I’m starting to have some serious job opportunities come through my door, despite only being 20 with no degree.

Explore all your options before you settle for the one that most people take.