by Nicholas Wyman | March 30, 2015
We all have different passions, talents, ambitions – so why are we all asked to follow the same educational path?
There is a common misconception that a traditional four-year college degree is the only logical choice for intelligent, motivated people. Yet successful careers are not handed out with college diplomas; they are built through imagination, passion, and dedication to getting the right education, at the right time. These skills and others, which can easily be acquired at community colleges or through other types of vocational training, are often the key ingredients in crafting a dream career.
Right now, there are so many exciting opportunities to re-define what a successful, rewarding, and lucrative career can look like. Far from being second-best, skills-based learning is now, more than ever, the way to make your dream career a reality: a college degree is not necessarily required. And I’m not just talking about low-paying or low-status jobs that (unfortunately) people tend to associate with community college. I’m talking about high-paying, highly technical jobs like computer programmers or medical technologists. In researching for my book JOB U, I had the privilege of connecting with a number of people who have carved out their own unique, rewarding career paths in surprising ways. The common thread was not a four-year degree or diploma; it was that they followed their passions, going where their interests led them, and gaining the necessary skills along the way.
Douglas Gorenstein, for example, enjoys a career as a top photographer in New York City, specializing in headshots (the professional photos every aspiring actor needs for auditions and publicity). A respected performance photographer with television and stage experience as well as a published author, Douglas achieved his success without ever finishing college. Instead, he followed his passion for the theatre, first as an actor, and later discovered a love of photography. Through courses at the International Center of Photography and lots of practice, Douglas acquired the technical skills to turn his passion into a thriving career. Douglas is one of many countless examples of how skills-based learning can shape a career that is just right for the individual. In fact, many of the most motivated, creative people need non-traditional pathways, and there’s no reason those pathways can’t start at community college.
So what can you do?
1. Discover what you love to do (without it costing a fortune).
What better way to discover what you enjoy than by trying it out? Just signing up for an online course or an introductory class at your local community college can give you an idea of what you want, or don’t want, to do. And, best of all, it’s much cheaper to test the waters this way than to sink thousands of dollars into a semester at an expensive university.
2 . Consider different ways to learn.
For many people, the traditional structure of college—sitting in a classroom and listening to a lecture—is a difficult way to learn. There are many different learning styles, and the typical classroom format only appeals to one of them. Many of us learn better by doing, and seeing results in the real world. Others benefit greatly from having the focused attention of a mentor, which is often an aspect of apprenticeships and traineeships. Vocational training provides limitless opportunities to learn in different ways and contexts, helping build confidence as you build skills.