College has a long list of pros, especially for an academically-based profession. But for many of America's youth, choosing to go to college is quite a complex decision. With the expansion of online businesses, there are more opportunities than ever to make your own path in the business world—one that may or may not include a typical college education.
For starters, those four years of commitment mean that college graduates aren't entering the workforce until about 22 years old. This takes years away from hands-on learning in your desired field and can be viewed as a significant opportunity cost. Having four years of experience in a particular field may be even more valuable than a degree.
And speaking of value... The average bachelor's degree in the United States costs $127,000—a sum very few have lying around. As a result, about 70% of students take out loans to help pay for school. So often, we hear from graduates that college felt like a waste of money and that paying off student loans is a struggle not worth the reward. How many people do you know who are in a career that is actually attached to the degree they earned? Meanwhile, there are thousands of entrepreneurs who didn't go to or finish college who are already making multi-millions a year from their businesses.
The good news here is, you don't have to wait for a degree to begin your journey as an entrepreneur.
Turning to industry insider business coaches like myself is fast becoming the road more traveled, as this is a one-on-one learning experience that most do not get in a room full of other students. An expert business coach guides you through a deep dive into your core passions and can pull your greatest strengths to the surface without the huge payout and time investment.
As a business coach for entrepreneurs, I serve as the fearless front runner of the boss babe revolution, helping female business-builders start making money now by turning their greatest passion into healthy profits. As an experienced entrepreneur, I learned a great deal from my own professional history. And now, I use that knowledge to teach others through virtual coaching—a platform that is both convenient and inexpensive.
So, before going into hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, I urge you to investigate alternative education opportunities to help prepare you to enter a career or start a business you love. With the internet, there are so many opportunities to start a business.
It is easier than ever to learn extremely valuable skills, apply them, and start a business without needing to go to college.
Thanks to the Internet, college is no longer the only way to broaden your horizons. Instead of hitting the books at university, look for people leading a creative project or business that inspires you. We can't create what we haven't seen evidenced before us in some way, so seeking mentors and people that have blazed the trail ahead of you is incredibly valuable.
The point is, before you go into hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, investigate alternative education options. The education system may make it seem like college is the only option, but there is more to the world than a degree that you may or may not ever use. There are so many other avenues, aside from college, that may better prepare you for a career or business you truly love. These days, the vast amount of online resources available make it nearly effortless to expand your knowledge and gain insight you may otherwise miss… Going the traditional route may end up costing you a lot more in the long run.
During a recent meeting on Microsoft Teams, I couldn't seem to get a single word out.
When I tried to chime in, I kept getting interrupted. At one point two individuals talked right over me and over each other. When I thought it was finally my turn, someone else parachuted in from out of nowhere. When I raised and waved my hand as if I was in grade school to be called on (yes, I had my camera on) we swiftly moved on to the next topic. And then, completely frustrated, I stayed on mute for the remainder of the meeting. I even momentarily shut off my camera to devour the rest of my heavily bruised, brown banana. (No one needed to see that.)
This wasn't the first time I had struggled to find my voice. Since elementary school, I always preferring the back seat unless the teacher assigned me a seat in the front. In high school, I did piles of extra credit or mini-reports to offset my 0% in class participation. In college, I went into each lecture nauseous and with wasted prayers — wishing and hoping that I wouldn't be cold-called on by the professor.
By the time I got to Corporate America, it was clear that if I wanted to lead, I needed to pull my chair up (and sometimes bring my own), sit right at the table front and center, and ask for others to make space for me. From then on, I found my voice and never stop using it.
But now, all of a sudden, in this forced social experiment of mass remote working, I was having trouble being heard… again. None of the coaching I had given myself and other women on finding your voice seemed to work when my voice was being projected across a conference call and not a conference room.
I couldn't read any body language. I couldn't see if others were about to jump in and I should wait or if it was my time to speak. They couldn't see if I had something to say. For our Microsoft teams setting, you can only see a few faces on your screen, the rest are icons at the bottom of the window with a static picture or even just their name. And, even then, I couldn't see some people simply because they wouldn't turn their cameras on.
If I did get a chance to speak and cracked a funny joke, well, I didn't hear any laughing. Most people were on mute. Or maybe the joke wasn't that funny?
At one point, I could hear some heavy breathing and the unwrapping of (what I could only assume was) a candy bar. I imagined it was a Nestle Crunch Bar as my tummy rumbled in response to the crinkling of unwrapped candy. (There is a right and a wrong time to mute, people.)
At another point, I did see one face nodding at me blankly.
They say that remote working will be good for women. They say it will level the playing field. They say it will be more inclusive. But it won't be for me and others if I don't speak up now.
- Start with turning your camera on and encouraging others to do the same. I was recently in a two-person meeting. My camera was on, but the other person wouldn't turn theirs on. In that case, ten minutes in, I turned my camera off. You can't stare at my fuzzy eyebrows and my pile of laundry in the background if I can't do the same to you. When you have a willing participant, you'd be surprised by how helpful it can be to make actual eye contact with someone, even on a computer (and despite the fuzzy eyebrows).
- Use the chatbox. Enter in your questions. Enter in your comments. Dialogue back and forth. Type in a joke. I did that recently and someone entered back a laughing face — reaffirming that I was, indeed, funny.
- Designate a facilitator for the meeting: someone leading, coaching, and guiding. On my most recent call, a leader went around ensuring everyone was able to contribute fairly. She also ensured she asked for feedback on a specific topic and helped move the discussion around so no one person took up all the airtime.
- Unmute yourself. Please don't just sit there on mute for the entire meeting. Jump in and speak up. You will be interrupted. You will interrupt others. But don't get frustrated or discouraged — this is what work is now — just keep showing up and contributing.
- Smile, and smile big. Nod your head in agreement. Laugh. Give a thumbs up; give two! Wave. Make a heart with your hands. Signal to others on the call who are contributing that you support and value them. They will do the same in return when your turn comes to contribute.
It's too easy to keep your camera turned off. It's too easy to stay on mute. It's too easy to disappear. But now is not the time to disappear. Now is the time to stay engaged and networked within our organizations and communities.
So please don't put yourself on mute.
Well, actually, please do put yourself on mute so I don't have to hear your heavy breathing, candy bar crunching, or tinkling bathroom break.
But after that, please take yourself off mute so you can reclaim your seat (and your voice) at the table.