7 Jobs That Educate You Better Than College Did

What do you want to major in?”
A dejecting, cringe-worthy question teenagers get asked by adults and the one that matters the least in my opinion.  As a mother of a teen who is contemplating her college education, my daughter and I get into plenty of arguments discussions about what she’s interested in, what she’s good at, and workplace culture. I try best to steer her towards questions like “What do you want to be doing all day?” “What kind of atmosphere do you like?” and “How much money do you want to make?”

Having filtered through my fair share of resumes, I know that college degrees while important is only a “check box” on an application. Reality is, while having higher education is a plus, it’s only as good as what is proven on the job. That said, how does a 16 year old decide upon entering college what degree to pursue? It boggles the mind to think that two short years ago we didn’t yet trust this kid to drink, vote, or sign a contract but now we expect them to decide on what they’re going to do for the rest of their life.  In a 2014 study, 29% of college graduates say they should have chosen a different major to better prepare them for their ideal job. Moreover, college graduates said that “choosing a different major” and “gaining more work experience” were their biggest regrets.

I contend that true direction in your career isn’t learned and shouldn’t be expected in college but rather after – in the work force.  Here’s 7 jobs that I think will educate young employees better and with less debt than college ever will.

1. Small Business
Locally owned. A start up. Or a mom and pop.  Just something that has less than 100 employees will do. Small businesses are great for learning everything that goes in to a business. Working for in something small will teach you the value of profit and a work ethic that demands “jacks of all trades.” From a cozy “we just like what we have” to a big-dreams, it will really educate you on the amount of work more than half of our sales in the US go towards.

2. A Fortune 500
Alternatively, working for a very large company can be equally educational and rewarding. Businesses like this educate you on the industry, give you an idea of the number of opportunities in career development, and how to navigate a corporate structure. Even better finding a publicly owned large business helps to teach you regulations, standards, and legal rules for doing business.  Big business can help jump start a great career.

3. State/Federal
State and federal can have just as many regulations and policies as “big business” but it a very different way. Working for a state of federal entity can teach you the value of our tax dollars.  How they are used and sometimes wasted. When working for the government you start to learn the intricacies behind why it works the way it does. Also, government benefits (insurance, holidays, retirement) are usually almost always better in the state/federal sector.

4. Finance/Accounting
Switching gears. a big learning experience is trying your hand in crunching numbers. If you ever want to really understand business, understanding how a business makes and spends money is a life changer. Execs love employees with some “bean counting” knowledge. Even if you eventually end up in sales, management, or something non-accounting related, this education will help you to make future business decisions based on one question:  “Is this profitable to my company?”

5. Customer Service/Retail
A truly humbling experience, working in customer service will build interactions skills with your customers, clients, vendors, and co-workers.  Those who have this background understand that as a company representative (in whichever role you are), every person you interact with sees you as a voice of the company. You’re part of that brand. Knowing how to converse about your product/service, how to troubleshoot any issues, and basic “making a sale” is key to developing your career.

6. Management
Those who go into management quickly learn whether they want to be managers or not. In fact, most of the time the most logical (and sometimes only) next step is management. If you’re a high-potential employee who is succeeding, you’ll likely get asked to manage others. The crux of this is that it takes skill to effectively manage others and it’s really only learned by doing. You will learn empathy, how to provide support to your team, conflict resolution, change management, and much much more.

7. Your Own Business
I’ll admit that this one is a “I’ve been told” one for me I’m convinced I’d be my worst boss. Nothing can be harder but potentially more rewarding than owning your own business and seeing it succeed.  That said, it’s a tough climb and many owners don’t see profits for the first years of their business. The benefits are the ability to envision something you can offer the market that no one else can and making that happen. You will learn the ability to self-manage your time, your own strengths, and your own weaknesses to do whatever it takes – because after all it’s your money. It requires networking to get your business going and develops leadership to manage others.

Agree?  Disagree? Think I left any out?  
Comment below and let’s discuss! 

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