"What do you want to do with your life?" It's a question that almost every young adult is faced with after graduating college or university. For some, the answer is simple: grad school, medical school, travel or volunteer. For many, the answer is unclear.
It's difficult to know what you want to do with your life without experience. For me, I tried as much as I could before I graduated university -- including running my own business, which I sold when university ended in order to live in Australia and Singapore -- and gained even more great experiences that shape much of what I have done in life. Today's young adults are tomorrow's leaders, a generation exposed to more information and resources than many of us thought possible. The Internet and social media offer more opportunities for self-education than ever. With this in mind, young adults are asking: Do I need higher education?
(1) There are a lot of lessons that you won't learn in the classroom: A master's program is not an across-the-board answer for all; it really depends on your field of study. When it comes to something quantitative like accounting, an MBA will likely give you a high ROI. If you're going into a field that is more focused on coming up with creative ideas or sales pitches, hands-on experience may be a more effective teaching tool. Learning how to interact and collaborate with people is essential for success. Anyone who works in an office can attest to the fact that good people skills are a necessity.
(2) Soft skills are essential to becoming successful: A broad knowledge is key when it comes to successful networking. It is life experience and self-education that develop these skills; for example, following key entrepreneurial influencers, or writing a daily blog to develop writing skills. Information is more readily available than ever; access to education is literally in the palm of your hand.
(3) Customers want the best experience: When it comes to the market, your level of education becomes much less relevant. Higher education may look great on paper, but it's not going to guarantee that you can satisfy an unhappy customer. There are a plethora of websites and blogs dedicated to sharing knowledge about customer care, entrepreneurship, leadership and the like. I have found these types of resources to be very useful and informative. As a business owner, I actively keep myself informed and up-to-date with the industry. It also connects me to influential people that I can learn from.
(4) When exploring career paths, ask yourself: What does day-to-day work look like? One thing people tend to overlook when pursuing a career is asking this simple, yet necessary, question. Business verbiage is very ambiguous; it's best to ask people working in the field or participate in an internship if you can. Look up blog posts on people's experiences in a given field or reach out to someone who inspires you. Connecting and engaging will help give you an inside look at a career experience.
(5) Temporary work is somewhat of a "stepping stone": Consider this before committing to higher education. Entry jobs provide you the opportunity to get your feet wet and explore different types of work environments. How do you come across these job opportunities? Do your research. LinkedIn is a great tool that reveals people's backgrounds and career evolution and is a good gauge of what kind of experience you'll need.
(6) Ten heads are better than one: If you're interested in entrepreneurship, the incubator model is something to consider. The latest learning experience offers a hub where like-minded individuals can come together, collaborate and learn from one another through hands on experience. Why not start up your own? Another great option is a post-secondary diploma or certificate; these are typically one year in length and often offer a co-op that provides hands-on work experience. There may be opportunities to complete the course online, giving you time to work in conjunction to achieving your degree.
(7) Social media is an essential tool for exploring your passions and planning your future: There is a wealth of knowledge readily available, whether it be reading tweeted articles or watching educational videos like Ted Talks. The important thing is to expose yourself to as much as you can so that you can confidently decide your future endeavours.