By Leo Babauta
While it's great for an unschooler to start their own business, is it hard for an unschooler, who doesn't follow a curriculum, to get a job?
Here's a great question from a reader:
If they don't follow a curriculum or go to school/college/university - it's fine if they start their own business, but if not then what would they put on their CV/resume in order to get a job?
I run my own business, but got here via working elsewhere and learning valuable lessons there, and wouldn't have got there without my school grades and university degree. So I'm interested to know the pathway forwards after unschooling?
So even if you want to start your own business, you might want to get a job first to build skills, learn from experienced people in the field, build up a network, etc. This is absolutely true.
Let's start by saying that we're only talking about jobs that don't absolutely require a college degree -- so we're ruling out doctors and lawyers and nurses and the like. For those jobs, at this point in history, you need a degree. But for many other jobs (a huge number these days), a degree is not required, though it can often help.
But there are many ways to get a job without a formal or traditional education. In fact, I would argue that in some cases, skipping traditional education is actually an advantage.
- I started as a journalist in high school (as a freelancer for my local newspaper), and while I did go to college after high school, I worked as a journalist all during college -- and it turned out that college was the least helpful thing I did during those years. Working in an actual newspaper was way more useful, and I gained a ton of skills doing that job. I'm not saying I learned nothing in college, but it wasn't worth all the hours I put into it.
- How did I get my job? By applying, doing an interview, showing my interest in the topic, showing some writing samples, and getting tested out on the job. None of those things required any education.
- Most jobs are really looking for skills and experience. You can get those without a degree. For example, you can teach yourself programming skills through online tutorials (I'm doing that now with my teen-age sons), and then create your own web apps that you can put in a portfolio, and contribute to open-source projects to build skills, experience, a reputation, and a portfolio. So teach yourself skills, learn on your own or with others, join projects where you can volunteer your time, be passionate about it, build experience and a reputation.
- If you take the four years that others are using to go to college, and instead you spend those years developing your skills and contributing to projects and building a portfolio, you'd be much more qualified than the college graduate in many cases.
- Find a mentor in high school. Ask for help. Offer to help the mentor with any projects she's working on, even just doing grunt work. The mentor can help you learn, but also might help you get a job.
- Often a young person's family knows a lot of people in various industries. Those people might be willing to give the teen-ager a chance at an entry-level job, because they trust the family. Take the entry-level job, work hard, learn, make friends, work your way up.
- Create awesome projects on your own, in your field. Make them public. If you do this, you'll get noticed. You'll show your talent and skills. People will hire you based on these projects.
- Create your own tiny business in your field. Be passionate about it. You'll learn a lot, and this is great on a portfolio.
- Make friends with interesting people who are passionate about what they're doing. Use each other for inspiration, but also collaborate. Build things. Do interesting things together. And put the word out that you're looking for a job -- they might know someone.
- Always learn new skills. Do tutorials online. Practice. Make things. Take community college classes on the side if that helps.
- Offer to help top people with their projects. Volunteer, work for free. Tell them you'll do anything. Create an audition video and show off your personality. Be good when you work for them. They'll thank you.
If you follow some of these ideas, you are very likely to get a job. It's not easy, but then neither is the traditional route of going to school that bores you, and going to college for four years just to get a job. I submit that my way is much more fun, and much more valuable for many people.