Dear College Kid: Experience Trumps Degrees

Dear College Kid is a series I write to my younger self. I would send them too, if I could somehow teleport myself via time machine to my late teens and early twenties. I hope other college kids find these letters, and garner some foresight that I myself had lacked. It’s not finance advice by any means, but rather, personal anecdote. Still. I hope it changes lives.

Dear College Kid,

Let me be the first to tell you that experience will always, always trump degrees. You can pay a lot of money to go to school (I paid over $575,000 for example!) or have formal training by lieu of classes, but at the end of the day, a newly graduated kid with a license will not add as much value to a company as the one who volunteered in the field and has solved its problems.

I liken it to applying for university. GPAs now mean diddly squat. The California UC system has written off the SATs. Whatever grades or awards you got in high school isn’t as important as what you’ve done. Extra curricular activities, previous projects, volunteer opportunities … in other words, how much of the world have you seen and contributed to? This is what’s important.

To be honest with you, we are entering a time period where the college degree becomes less relevant. I would love to live to see that one day. But even now, I see kids who have solved problems in a field or gained hands-on experience through shadowing or volunteering trump new grads. That is especially true in software, computer programming, digital marketing, finance and art. (Unfortunately, the healthcare field still requires official stamps on paper.)

Let me tell you that most jobs I did never required a degree. I didn’t get a degree on writing, coding, digital marketing or website production to create this blog. Everything was learned as I went along. I never got a culinary degree to open my own bakery. But my experience making bread surely helped. It required no paperwork to create a pet sitting business. Not once did I work at a vet’s office, groomer’s or pet store. I do not have an accounting degree, a finance major, or past sales experience. Yet I am a wholesale director for a bakery who runs the billing, the accounting, and manages wholesale clients.

For six years, I never even had my diploma. I did not realize I lost it, because no one ever asked for it. Even though I have started five new jobs since then. Just recently, my dental office asked if they could hang a copy of it up. I searched frantically to no avail. My mom finally found it jammed between some canvases of art in my parent’s garage.

That’s a metaphor for what my degree is: A work of art, that no one cares to look at.

Instead, be a muse. Have a story to tell, filled with experiences and lessons learned. THAT is worth something!

However, you may already be in college trying to earn that paper. That’s fine. But here are a few ways to talent stack:

5 Ways To Gain More Experience

  1. Learn a new skill.
  2. Volunteer in your field.
  3. Shadow a professional.
  4. Explore YouTube or blogs.
  5. Work on self-improvement.

All the best, ’til next week!

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