On a recent trip to Greece, I had coffee with Sotiris, a student in Athens who had managed to get multiple great job offers for himself by the time he’d turned 20 and graduated college. Keep in mind that the rest of Greece is currently experiencing unemployment levels upwards of 50% for the ages of 20-30.
Okay, Sotiris is special, I thought. And he is.
But when I asked him the things he’d done to make himself stand out, nothing stood out as revolutionary. In one instance, he was able to turn an internship into a job just by being the only person in the corporate office of experienced professionals who knew how to properly set up a Google Form to collect a survey.
In another instance, all he did was design a basic PDF for a friend’s company. It offered him a job not long later.
Now consider the way most people go about preparing for a career. They sit in class for 4-8 years, learn a bunch of theory that they don’t know how to put into practice, and still come out into the world with few valuable skills that they can take to a company. But at least they’ve got a college degree.
Meanwhile, basic skills like an understanding of Google Apps for Work landed Sotiris a job in a country that, as he says, will regularly see 5,000+ people apply to the same job opening.
This is not much different in the United States. From my own work at Praxis, I know that companies are starved for young employees that have basic skills like professional writing, knowledge of Evernote, Excel, Creative Cloud, etc.
The other day on my blog, I wrote about a Praxis participant who landed work as a photographer at a company after having his camera for a day.
I was working a client last week to who runs a $20 million company but didn’t know how to set up a Skype call. Some 16-year-old kid who has been using Skype all his life could come in and immediately start doing valuable IT work for that client.
In other words, the bar is very low.
You don’t need to be a college graduate with years of classroom time under your belt or a seasoned professional to land opportunities for yourself. You need a modicum of basic skills that you can show a company and which you can be constantly getting better at and the ability to market and sell that skill to companies.
Reading that now, you’re probably thinking “obviously. But how can I learn those skills?”
Chances are you already have some of them, but the fact that you haven’t studied them formally in the classroom obfuscates that fact. I’ve realized working with the incoming participants of Praxis that we have a tendency to underestimate our abilities.
Things seem obvious to us and we assume that they must be obvious to everyone else, and then we miss out on opportunities that would otherwise be wide open to us if we were just willing to sell ourselves a bit. Maybe it’s some knowledge of a social media graphic tool or an understanding of Mailchimp that you picked up. Companies will pay for it.
Once you get your foot in the door, you can start to develop the more valuable skills that can only really be learned on the job anyways. From there, you’ll be able to write your ticket anywhere, degree or no degree.