The Education Paradox – Just Do Something, Damnit

Congrats! Grads?I reconnected with an old friend yesterday, who having graduated in May 2009 to become an interior designer, felt she had two choices: Work at Starbucks or Go to Grad School.

The economy is in shreds, yet the cost of an Education hasn’t diminished – it’s substantially increased. Normally, this would have a reduction effect on the bell-curve of the level of education for a society; that is, bad economies breed more dumb hicks as fewer and fewer people can afford to have access to higher education. Instead, super-thrifty Gen-Y is now starting the Education Revolution – everybody and their friggin’ granny is going to Grad School these days.

The value of an education, that piece of paper you get at the end of two or more years of late night Monster-powered study marathons, used to be that you had better odds of getting a job. That you had more “tangible” experience to connect to an employer’s needs. Well, that sure ain’t true anymore, now is it?

If everyone has a masters degree, then we’re all still sitting at the middle of the bell curve, ain’t we? Pull out your banjos boys and girls, we’ve hit the point in our lives where no matter how much education you have, you’re still a dumb hick. The real value of an education has substantially diminished; yet we’re paying outrageous, skyrocketing prices for the privileged of a piece of paper that says we can toil away for extended periods.

There are only three ways to differentiate yourself from other dumb hicks:

  1. Be In Style (Paris Hilton, anyone?) – this is the most fickle but also longest-lasting, unless you eat babies
  2. Add Value (Lenny, Of Mice and Men) – this is the most subjective and shortest-lasting, unless you can negotiate
  3. Be ridiculously driven towards your goals – this requires the most energy, but lasts as long as you have the energy and resources

You will surely fail if you look at your education as a buffer to the bad economy, as a way to say to employers that you are willing to work hard, or as a way to allay boredom.

Instead, you -must- take full advantage of all four years of undergrad, squeeze the life out of every organization, event, networking possibility – start blogging, make a name for yourself, host your own events, organize massive conferences on your own or with your friends, get known for something like starting up a community-centric marketplace or an energy-saving initiative.

Just do something, damnit!

My friend had a lot more than two choices; but first she has to realize just how awesome she is. Until then, she’ll feel stuck.

I am a dumb hick – the first to admit it; in fact, it makes for great party conversations. As true as that may be, I’ve managed to start my own business, become profitable in 3 months time, pay off all but one of two of my major debts in 6 months, and help organize two of the largestunconferences” in a city that six months ago, had never heard of one. Not just that, but I’ve also become a public speaker, started up a group that teaches social media to the public for charity, and have started to write my own book.

Oh, and I’m going back for my MBA this summer.