If you’ve made it to adulthood without a college degree, you may be wondering if you can get ahead in your career without one. The answer is yes! How about in online learning or EdTech? A doubly resounding yes!
Crossing the path, of course, does take work. Whereas a degree gives you the “benefits” of a lot of answers given, going without one will require you to innovate and own a lot decisions that otherwise be comfortably taken off your hands. Including the definition of success you would be pursuing.
Either way, professional advancement is a factor of discipline, applied creativity and making yourself known by the right audiences. These are true facts, no degree required.
So what are some less conventional paths to success in elearning? Here are some ideas.
Apprenticeships don’t get nearly as much attention as they deserve. This is an on-the-job training model that can provide you a paycheck while you learn a valuable skill. The benefits of an apprenticeship for the trainer is that they can teach the next generation of tradesmen or professionals in their methodologies. For you, an apprenticeship can lead to a steady salary, a strong career, room for advancement. A few examples of apprenticeships include banking, social media, construction, silversmithing, dental nursing, information technology, and hospitality management.
According to Indeed, finding an apprenticeship takes some legwork. You first have to decide what you would like to do and then confirm you meet eligibility requirements. Because apprenticeships, like internships, are competitive, you will have to apply and prove that you are the best candidate for the job.
For many, entrepreneurship is a more desirable path than working for someone else. Many people who choose not to go to college do so because they are driven and not patient enough to wait on someone else to define their success. To become a successful entrepreneur, you will write your own success, solve a problem for a broad market, and set clear goals. You may not see it that way but for a lot of people going into business is primarily an educational experience. You not only get your hands dirty and learn valuable and “real street” skills, you also get to put in practice a thesis about a product and a market, with plenty of opportunities to refine.
Start your journey of business ownership by choosing a niche –that is, an audience–and a business model: Your unique way to generate and communicate value to your niche in a way that is sustainable, and potentially scalable. Next, decide on an entity figure: usually an LLC, sole proprietorship, or corporation. An LLC tends to make the most sense if you plan to run your business outside of a corporate structure, and you can file the paperwork quickly and inexpensively on your own using a formation service. You can morph your incorporation as you go.
But no matter what type of business structure you choose, keep in mind one word: Regulation. We’re talking legalese, permits and licenses, sure, but this word means a lot more. Go out and connect with peers in your line of business, but to understand what are some of the informal rules by which they play. Do promotional campaigns, digitally or otherwise, but be very mindful of the social norms and customs that filter their response. These and many more are examples of how Regulation works in practice.
If you’ve been in your career for a while or are just getting ready to open a business, finding a mentor is a smart choice. A mentor is an individual who has worked their way up in your industry and has extensive breadth of knowledge. They are often volunteers. Sometimes organizations have these programs. There are also independent networks, such as SCORE.
Arguably, the main benefit of a mentorship is feedback. A mentor would provide honest and thoughtful comments about your work and profile, even when you do not want to hear what they have to say. They have been in your shoes and understand the struggles you face, particularly if they also achieved success without a degree either. Your mentor can also share their connections and can put in a good word if they see potential in you. These are invaluable benefits and an excellent reason to start your mentor search today.
Conclusion: Why not a bit of everything?
Without a college degree, some jobs may be off the table. But that does not mean that you can’t be successful just. Without a degree, the real challenge is how to compensate for the missing economic signaling it sends to employers and society. Our modern world has more ways than ever before to demonstrate your abilities, values and experience.
Many of the brightest minds of the last 50 years — think Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Michael Dell — followed Mark Twain’s philosophy of never letting school get in the way of their education. And neither should you.
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