It’s an unsettling feeling, leaving college, leaving high school or some kind of post high-school service and entering (what they call) the “real world” and realizing that offers of all kinds don’t come sliding through. Job offers, investment opportunities, whatever else. Yet there is this naive belief that is propagated to our youth that everything just sort of sorts itself out after you enter the aforementioned “real world”.
The “real world” was laid out to me by some high school teachers/counselors like this: you graduate high school, you go to college, you graduate college, you get a job, you save, you have a family, you retire. Boom, done. You hardly have to think or worry at all, it’s all done for you. They espoused this plan because that’s the plan that worked for them.
When I look at the generation of my high school teachers and counselors this is how life seemed to be (according to my tiny brain) for them when they were my age. Everything was prepackaged and pre-bundled for you on a little conveyor belt, all you had to do was pluck the package you wanted and off you went, things would then go relatively smoothly. And as long as you didn’t destroy it completely and make an effort to keep the plan together, things were going to work out.
Things are different now, a lot different. This isn’t to say things were better then or worse now, or vice versa, it simply is what it is.
It’s almost like in previous generations the ordinary person didn’t *need* to have a lot of options. Don’t get me wrong, they had most of the same options we do today, they are just … less reliable now. The paths taken then seemed to be more of a success compared to those same paths when taken by my generation. When I refer to “paths” I mostly mean credentialization, but specifically university credentialization. It seems that a few decades ago as long as the proper hoops were jumped through you would be alright. The hoop jumping trick is starting to wear out, and doesn’t have that same appeal to younger people. Not only is the appeal not there, those old paths just don’t work for the masses like they used to.
I am growing more and more certain that these traditional options are running out of steam. They had their time, they worked, and that’s fine. So what about us zoomers/millennials? What options do we have?
Well, for starters, I think my options are going to be closer to fishing in the wild on my 3rd foodless night than they are to selecting meals off a fast food menu. Our food will have to be caught ourselves and our career options are going to have to be crafted in the same way.
Why do you have to make your own? Mostly because credentialization doesn’t represent real knowledge like we thought it did for a long time. It’s mostly a signal, and it turns out when you build a family/business/economy on people who signalled they have knowledge it’s not as sustainable as it otherwise might be when those people have legitimate knowledge and experience. The college degree means diddly compared to what it meant 50 years ago. When my high school counselors got out of college they went right into the jobs they’d have for the rest of their careers (retirement plans included), and essentially coasted until that retirement came. I know I am not the only one who got out of college and expected all kinds of those same kind of opportunities to flow in, because that’s what was sold to me in high school! This promise school teachers and advisors make you that once you get there to the “real world” things will be similar to how they always have been. BIG NOPE. Not anymore. That was probably naive of me to take their word for it but hey, here we are.
Ironically, after being taught dependence on the system for so long, the second I got out of that system and into the “real world” the first thing it taught me was 1) Holy crap, they were all wrong, and 2) no one is going to save me, no employer, no politician, nothing. And even if you are “saved” today with some kind of career opportunity or political handout it’s hardly ever on your terms. And if someone comes to save you it’s probably going to look like this:
Giving yourself your own options and crafting options for yourself is the best way to make those be to your liking – there will always be product-market fit when it’s done this way. In my experience with opportunities/jobs that weren’t on my terms they were worth doing only because I realized that it wasn’t sustainable for me and it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing in the long haul. This sort of experience bogs the psyche down.
There is no modern credentialization I can think of that will help you on your way to self sustainability and optionality. The only way to become self-sustainable is to tinker and make decisions based on new information that comes to you. None of this was taught to me while I was in the credential process, I was basically taught dependence on superiors and blind trust to the system, and not much else. There are roles in which credentialing plays an extremely vital part of your path, I am not talking about that. I am referring to the kids who are ostensibly great at nothing and decent at a few things who happen to have no idea what they want to study so they just go to college for a bachelors in business management and end up hating the trajectory that put them on. These kids – much like myself – relate more to Chris Farley or a Johnny Cash. Those who aren’t getting PHD’s anytime soon.
As someone who experienced “Educational Iatrogenics” – by trying to educate me, I was placed on the completely wrong path by nimwit credentializers – and because of that there is damage that needs to be undone, knowledge that needs to be unwound.
But in this case it may be better not to depend on those around you, it may be better for you to take things into your own hands and craft those options yourself, because no one is going to give them to you. This is what our youth should be taught at a younger age – in a less harsh and a more hopeful tone than mine obviously.
I think those who find themselves in a situation much like this are starting to ask themselves this question; Is “thriving” on someone else’s terms as good as surviving (with a non-zero chance of thriving) on your own terms?