To differentiate yourself, you’ll need at least 2 things. One is sufficient mastery of a relatively rare skill people will pay for. The second is the ability to convince someone of that mastery and to pay you.

Skipping College?—A Few Things To Consider

# 70 on my 99 Life Tips–A List is: A college degree is unnecessary if; you have an innate, voracious appetite and capacity for knowledge, you also have the personality and skill to sell yourself to a prospective employer. Otherwise, a degree is proof that they can teach you and you can stick to something long enough to be considered a credible candidate for employment.

Having written previously on the benefits of a college degree, this companion piece is my take on the sine qua non attributes any person in the modern economy must possess if they are to make money using their mind (and not their muscle) in sufficient quantity for the lack of the college degree not to be either a roadblock, or a constant source of anxiety.

Whew! That was a long sentence. If you don’t have a college degree, go get one and then come back and try that sentence again. 

Look, making a living in the US, in a technology heavy, services dominated, consumer driven economy, will be tough with no degree. Without verifiable skills, as showed by completing approximately 120 credit hours’ worth of study in some concentrated subject, you will compete on price for your talents and presence at any job. Scarcity creates value. Persons with college degrees are not scarce. Their overall value has fallen as discussed in my previous piece. Though they have an achievement on their resume that prospective employers look for.

The Pool is Larger

That means you’ll be competing against a much larger segment of the employable pool of workers for pay. Your competition includes both those with and without degrees. And the larger the pool of anything, the less valuable it is.

You will need to set yourself apart to climb out of the largest pool. To differentiate yourself, you’ll need at least 2 things. One is sufficient mastery of a relatively rare skill people will pay for. The second is the ability to convince someone of that mastery and to pay you. The rarer the skill you develop, the more valuable. But, you’ll still have to market yourself to prospective employers and customers. In short, you’ll need to develop major people skills. 

You’ll also need to have the resilient personality and mental fortitude to face lots of rejection. Lots of potential positions on job posting sites will require a degree as the first requirement of consideration. You won’t even have the chance to talk your way into a trial run.

I am on your side in this venture. We are in the same camp. I am about halfway to a degree, and could complete it, but I made different decisions in life a long time ago that I have absolutely zero regrets about. But I’m damn lucky not to be full of regrets. 

I’m warning you on the front end that you may regret not having that proof that you can stick to something, get a degree and never have to worry about that as a requirement in your preferred area of employment.

Now, if you’re Steve Jobs, or Jerry Garcia, or some other whiz-bang, super talented, highly motivated individual who will wow us with your every creation, skipping college might make a lot of sense. If that describes you, by all means, please go for it!

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