Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Too cool for school?

After having spent five years at university completing degrees in economics and arts, I can't help but feel that I have racked up a $30,000 debt with nothing much to show for it. I started my first "real" job as an economist five days after my last exam and felt the harsh slap of reality after spending my first month sitting at my blank desk reading a dictionary of statistics. How had I allowed myself to not truly do what I loved and felt passionate about? Was making others feel happy and proud of me paramount to making myself fill fulfilled?

It was at that point I began to have a good hard look at my choices that had led me to this point. I have a habit of being a people pleaser, going with the flow and being optimistic about pretty much all situations that I didn't stop to think about what I was going to become. Although I love economics and find it incredibly interesting, I really don't think I have an affinity for the profession. I guess this was a case of loving the study but not the work. Perhaps I can become a theoreticist? Or perhaps I am a typical gen-y who drops things when the going gets tough?

Starting Lola PR and launching my project Wikifashion, was something that really helped me hone in on all of the things I love and felt passionate about. Working on both allowed me to write, soak up beautiful fashion editorials, blog, talk to lovely people, indulge in my love of public relations and the online media and finally work towards doing something that made me feel truly, effervescently happy.

Now I wonder if only I had realised these things six years ago, maybe I wouldn't be so far in debt? I can wonder all I like, but when it comes down to it, I think my degrees have helped me expand my way of thinking and allowed me realise that with a lot of hard work and persistence I can do whatever I want to.

Having said this, I hope to give a little advice about whether or not university is needed in order to achieve your ultimate career path and save you the hefty price tag for my epiphany.

While I was at university I met someone who promptly quit his degree and started his own business at 19 years old. A lot of people discouraged him from doing this and warned that he would need a degree. I supported his decision and joked that the people in his class would probably be working for him one day. Well that came to fruition around six months ago, and now no one questions his decision to quit university. Through a lot of self-discipline, hours of self learning and persistence this person has become pretty damn good at what they do, degree or no degree. Now I am by no means saying that if you want to become a lawyer or a doctor that you rock up to your local law court or hospital and ask for a job fresh out of school. Yes a lot of professions now require you to be qualified and then qualified some more. However there are a number such as in IT in the case of my above story, or perhaps starting your own business that a degree may not be necessary. A lot of careers come about because people have started from the bottom rung and slowly sweated their way to the top. Look at Richard Branson, he left school at 16 and bought an island when he was 28 years old. The two need not be mutually exclusive.

In a world where degrees seem as prolific as toilet paper, experience, motivation and some serious hard work can never replace a pretty certificate. However to stand on the fence as my people pleaser self would do, I would advise that for most a good helping of work experience, internships and extra curriculars will go swimmingly with your degree in getting you to where you want to go.


  1. Hey lovely!

    Yay, you have another blog, I'm linking it now :)

    I can relate to this post...half way through my law degree I had to admit to myself that what I thought was my passion was not.
    Very gen y of me! ;)
    Also loving the pic you choose for this post.

    Hope 2010 is fabulous for you!
    <3 xxx

  2. Thank you lovely! It's good to hear that I'm not alone with this :) I hope your 2010 is fabulous too!

  3. Sometimes life bring us to reflect in a misterious way.. The most important thing, for me, is try to live with an "open mind"..
    Have a great 2010!

  4. Another proof that you can be successful without a degree is Anna Wintour herself. She is the editor in chief of the US Vogue, and she is extremely successful. She dropped out of school at the age of 16, and to her parents' behest, she took fashion classes. Soon after, she dropped out and said "You either know fashion or you don't." She never went to school again, but made her way up in the fashion industry. And look at her now.

    Great post(:

  5. That is a fantastic comment, thank you! I had no idea that Anna was a "drop-out"!

  6. Nice post! I'll try stop spamming your inbox with emails to approve my comments, but I can't help but add "the world belongs to the discontent" in response to your paragraph about being a people pleaser. So it's great that you're self-aware and fighting for your own now! :)

    I agree with everything you have to say about entrepreneurship. I'm still in the "rat race" and doing a degree, because I'm still overcome by emotion and fear that I'll need one, even if it's not something I'll actually use. Am I lying to myself by convincing myself that it'll be useful? It's the safe thing to do... but sometimes being safe isn't the best route.

    Entrepreneurship, by definition, is quite risky - but it's less risky if it's what you love.


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