General thoughts about college education (and jobs)

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Fireblossom
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08 Aug 2021, 4:30 am

StrayCat81 wrote:
Hmm, nowadays it's more important who you know, networking I think? People just employ friends and acquaintances.

I've heard a theory that you do not go to university to study, but to network with future employers... :3


Pretty much, yeah. I've heard that networking is a big part of making it in the academic world. The thing is, as far as I know, they don't teach networking in university, either. You either have to have natural talent for it, somehow handle it by studying about it or... well, you'll be way behind in the academic world. Of course, if you're really good at what you do or your skills are in high demand, you can do well even without networking.



uncommondenominator
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10 Aug 2021, 2:41 pm

Simply getting a degree in and of itself doesn't mean much. The level of the degree, the subject of the degree, the institution offering it, and the performance and skill of the student, all matter quite a bit.

An AA degree isn't going to land you a high level job. Getting my AA made it easier to get entry-level jobs, of a slightly better caliber than flipping burgers or bagging groceries. Getting my BA was the key to getting jobs higher in caliber than "assistant store manager".

A degree in aardvark husbandry isn't going to impress many people outside the aardvark appreciation association. A degree in something unrelated to the jobs you're trying to get isn't going to "impress" anyone into giving you a job you're still not qualified for.

A degree from Butch's School O' Learnin' isn't likely to impress anyone other than Butch. Being taught or trained only means something if there's reason to believe you've been taught or trained CORRECTLY.

And nobody cares how good you did in school if you can't actually do the thing in the real world. There are, for better or worse, very few jobs that allow one to simply sit quietly in a corner and just do the one singe thing they're good at, over and over.

Having said that, no, you don't have to go to school to be successful. But you DO still have to have some skill or ability that other people want, and can rely on.

I'll give two examples, of two people I know.

One of them, has an AS in astronomy, a BA in mathematics, and an MS in criminology. They got nearly straight A's in all of them. But in the real world, they'd never actually done any work in any of those fields. All they'd ever done was retail sales - clothes, shoes, etc. Despite all the academic experience, they were still a complete novice when it came to actually doing these things in an occupational capacity. Despite their supposed interest in those various fields, they never spent any time actually working in those fields, in any capacity. They're an insurance adjuster with mediocre pay last I checked. A decent paid desk drone.

The other has no formal schooling, no formal training, and no certifications. They liked computers, so they got jobs at places that did computer stuff. Not as a computer person - as a desk jockey, a coffee fetcher, a copy maker - but while they were there, they learned about computers from the people who did do the computer stuff. Then they started to help the computer people. Then they started to work with the computer people. The more they did it, the better they got, the more they learned. They learned it in the field, by finding ways to be around it, and pick it up from others who did it every day. They're a network systems engineer for the likes of microsoft and google these days. They make about 100K a year.

I've had the best success using a mix of both. I learned computers in the wild, but I went to school for cybersecurity. I got summer jobs as an oil changer before getting a formal education in automotive repair, but then I've learned marine repair on-the-job. The fact that I kept getting promoted to managerial positions is what gave me the idea to get a BAS in organizational management, and it was my combined abilities of managerial experience and performance in my BAS that got me into grad school. I've made it a point to be around people who are smarter than I, and more skilled than I, cos those are the people I am going to learn the most from.

There is no one path to success. There is no one definition of success. But success is not a series of boxes to check. It's not a line to cross or a game to win either. Success is built upon a foundation of small victories and glimmers of hope, fanned flamed and nurtured by effort and striving and learning, and built higher by the collected and collective skills knowledge and abilities accumulated over time by the individual.

Doing something over and over again and expecting a different result isn't insanity. It's practice. Natural talent is extremely rare, and more often than not, talent is the result of tens of thousand of hours of practice. Anything I'm good at, I'm good at cos I spent many hours a day doing them, for many many years. I was definitely not good at them to start with. Some of them I got better at faster than others.

Back to education - it doesn't matter how you know it or how you got good at it, what matters is that you know it, and that you're good at it. When people hire people they know from school, yes, sometimes it is friends hooking up friends - but usually, it's cos they've worked with you, so they know what you're capable of and what they can expect from you. You're not a stranger or an unknown. Same goes for co-workers. Bob didn't hire Joe just cos they used to work together "down at the plant" - Bob hired Joe cos he knows that Joe is in fact good at what he does, and that Joe is an honest and hardworking guy, cos he's seen it first hand, cos they worked together.

Saying that you're good at something doesn't mean much. Setting aside outright dishonesty, it's not uncommon for a person to think they're better at something than they really are. I know plenty of "mechanics" that I would never let touch my car.

That's where external validation come in. I don't care how good YOU say you are. I don't care how good your momma or daddy say you are. I don't care how good your friends say you are. If I'm going to take someone's word for it, there has to be a reason I'd take their word. If you're a good mechanic, I want to hear that from the ASE, or from a reputable place you worked in the past. Working for 3 months at Lube'N'Go doesn't carry the same weight as working for 3 years at Le Prestige Auto Care Center.

Believe it or not, schools generally won't "just pass" people, unless they're a crap school. People only seek schools because of the reputation they carry for being competent. If schools just churned out idiots, then nobody would trust them. I know there's at least a few people on here that do seem to genuinely think that schools are just mass indoctrination centers that make people stupid and fall in line - and there are a few, sadly - but for the most part, a REAL, properly accredited school is in fact a center of learning and knowledge.

No, there's no guarantee you'll succeed just for going. There's no guarantee that you'll get accepted to go in the first place. People seem to get salty about that - not being accepted in, or not doing well once they do get in. But that's on the individual, not the school. Blaming the school is just a means of preserving the ego. "I'm WAY smart, they just didn't like such a free-thinker" - or similar shifting of focus.

As for networking being "necessary", I have never found this to be the case. I'm polite, courteous, I do my damn job, and I do it well - but I certainly don't "make friends" or "socialize" whatsoever, aside from the assignment at hand. I am not a yes-man, and certainly do debate, argue, push back, and question - but I do so politely, and courteously.
When people SEE for themselves that you're not a jerk, and you do good work, they will WANT to be a part of that, and will seek you out. Much like Bob hiring Joe in the scenario I mentioned earlier. Bob may not even like Joe. I certainly haven't liked all of the people I've had to work with. But I still had to work with them. So long as you're not intolerable, and do good work, I really don't care, and neither do most other people. Bob may not even like Joe - but Joe is honest, diligent, and good at what he's needed to do. I'm not hiring Joe to be a friend. I'm hiring Joe to manage incoming and outgoing shipments. Being "liked" is a weak substitute for being skilled and competent.

Nepotism is a thing, and "favors" do exist - but relying on them is for the unskilled and unwilling. If you can do something that other people can't do, can do it well, and do it consistently, all you have to do is let it be known you can do it, and people WILL seek you out. "Networking", realistically, is just having a reputation. It's the pool of people who are familiar with what you are capable of. Networking isn't just "meeting people" and hoping they hire you, cos "friendship is magic!" and "we went to the same school!" - it's the fact that, since you went to school together, and they know who you are and what you're good at, if someone asks them, "hey, do you know a good accountant?", they can actually say from first hand experience, "Yes, I know this guy Joe, he's really good. I know cos I went to school with him and SAW it for myself" - so joe get's offered a job, not cos he and Bill were pals, but cos Bill KNEW that Joe was qualified for the job, and was willing to stake his word on it. The person asking Bill gets a good employee, and Joe gets a good employer - not because "friends!", but because recommended for being competent.

Hard truth. If you want to get hired for a job, you have to be able to actually do the job, within reason. If you have a tendency to mishandle money, you don't get to be a cashier. If you're rude and unapproachable, you don't get to be a salesperson. If it takes you three tries to successfully make a simple meal properly, don't expect to be a chef. You don't have to like what you do - few people are actually that lucky - but you do have to be capable of doing it. I'm no good to my boss if one out of three engines I build explode. I'm valuable cos NONE of the engines I build explode. Also the fact that I can build engines. When working on brakes or suspension, I can't afford to make a mistake, it might cost someone their life.

Intelligence is a huge spectrum that manifests itself in a wide variety of ways - school is not for everyone. Not everyone has the mind for astrophysics. Not everyone has aptitude in engineering. Hell, not everyone can read. But typically, everyone can learn, to some degree or another. If school's not your thing, find another way to learn. Find a way that works for you. But make sure to find a way that's ACCURATE and EFFEECTIVE. Plenty of people have been "doing this for twenty years!" which is cool, but, they've been doing it WRONG for 20 years. Youtube is not education. It's entertainment. Anything educational that slips through is purely coincidental.

Go to school if you can. Become an apprentice if you can't. And vice versa. But don't just read books and watch videos and assume you've understood it correctly. That's the benefit of being taught, rather than teaching yourself - someone more knowledgeable than you can give you feedback and let you know if you're on the right track. Otherwise you're just homer simpson dancing around calling yourself "smrt".



Lost_dragon
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10 Aug 2021, 6:15 pm

I just graduated recently and I think I'll be checking in on this thread every now and then. When I signed up for University, I knew that I would be guaranteed nothing. In the line of work I want to break into, I know that the most important thing is building up my portfolio. After all, it is one thing to announce yourself as a digital designer and it is quite another to show it. I know that my chances are slim, it's a competitive market to get into, but I'd like to at least try to break into UI / UX design and motion design. That's why I'm improving on previous work as well as creating new designs. I'm also taking on a project for a family member to help promote their business because it would give me the opportunity to showcase my video editing skills. Perhaps I'll include small motion graphic segments in the advert as well as live-action shots, I've been allowed a lot of creative freedom with this project.

Despite finishing my course with a fairly high grade, I still have an awful lot to learn and quite frankly I am terrified. Perhaps I won't end up in the role I set out for, but I have to at least try. I know websites such as Fiverr allow freelancers to sell their work but it can be difficult to get noticed in the crowd. That's why I want to perfect my Showreel video as much as possible in the hopes that it will be enough to convince others to hire me.

For those unfamiliar with motion design:


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Mona Pereth
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12 Aug 2021, 7:43 pm

uncommondenominator wrote:
Go to school if you can. Become an apprentice if you can't. And vice versa. But don't just read books and watch videos and assume you've understood it correctly. That's the benefit of being taught, rather than teaching yourself - someone more knowledgeable than you can give you feedback and let you know if you're on the right track. Otherwise you're just homer simpson dancing around calling yourself "smrt".

Given the high cost of formal education these days, I think it's a good idea to do a lot of book-reading and video-watching BEFORE one attends college, with the aim of placing out of as many intro courses as possible. (For STEM subjects, one should also work on practice problems, and perhaps create or join informal study groups.) There are a LOT of excellent videos and online textbooks out there these days.

But it's still a good idea to take some actual classes -- at least advanced classes -- and get a degree.


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17 Aug 2021, 7:56 am

My advice to those who go the STEM route: Learn to be flexible with what area you are studying. So many are very stubborn in how they want to proceed after graduation. They have their career path planned out to the nth degree. But, reality will stick it’s ugly head in sometime. Many hiring committee are not looking for exactly what you got your degree in. But you can usually get a chance at a good job if you can prove that you have the abilities that the job requires. Never give up on your goals.