It will take 10 years to break-even on your college education, according to Goldman Sachs and the annual Michigan State University employment study.
But you know what I hate about these articles?
They assume you are average.
By comparing average salaries post-graduation to student debt, these articles quickly conclude that college is a bad investment. They imply that your earning potential and fulfillment is purely a function of the university you attend and your major. Clearly landing a high-paying, fulfilling job is out of your control… we are all just average… right?
And that’s exactly why I hate these articles. They subconsciously train you to blame external factors when things don’t go your way.
Didn’t get that job you wanted?
"Oh well, nobody from my university gets it anyways. If only I went to Harvard. I guess I’m still doing fine.
To me, that’s equivalent to saying your only option is being average. But reality is far different.
The Problem With Averages
The statistician drowned because averages don't paint the full picture. While the river is on average 3 feet deep, there was a 10 foot deep trench and the rest of the river was only 2 feet deep.
Similarly, while the average graduating compensation is $40k, most people probably make below that (or go unemployed) while a few make far more.
There are people in every situation who are dramatically above-average by creating and seizing opportunities average people don’t realize exist.
Here's some compensation data to further explain this idea:
(Statistics on starting compensation for 2017 from Michigan State University Employment Study)Did you see how wide the gap is between average compensation and high-end compensation? Not everybody takes 10 years to pay back their student loans.
You've got to understand that those high-end figures are entirely within your reach if you change your approach to your career. Of course some students come from well-connected families, while others are struggling to make ends meet.
However, I guarantee there is someone who came from a similar background as yourself and still made it to the top. Build the mindset that you can do it without using external factors to justify being average.
College is not going to get you a job. You are going to get yourself a job. You have to do the work, and college enables you with opportunity.
Notice a pattern?
You get to consciously decide if you are average or above-average. Mediocrity is not predetermined by anyone but yourself.
And if you’re doing the same thing as everyone else, you will be average.
Remember: doing average things will get you average results.
Before we continue to the actionable steps you can take to become above-average, I'd like to address the craze around choosing the right major.
In the previous chart, I broke down the compensation figures by major to show you how wide the ranges are. It is crucial to understand that your major does not dictate your potential job, industry, career-fulfillment, or salary... unless you allow it to.
I know people who studied the liberal arts and landed amazing job opportunities with compensation far above the average and high-end range for their specific major. Rather than choosing their major based off compensation statistics, they studied what they loved and developed professionally outside of the classroom.
Above-average people understand that their major is just one path to learn and does not define their identity.
Now that we have that out of the way, here are a few tips on how to break away from the pack.
The Fast-Track to Beating Average
I’m about to give you the secret to becoming above-average quickly. Are you ready...?
Email impressive people with similar backgrounds as yourself and ask for a conversation to pick their brains (via phone, coffee, lunch, etc).
It’s that simple.
If you go to a university lacking brand recognition and/or are majoring in a subject with high unemployment, find a few people who were in a similar situation yet managed to land an amazing job. Then chat with them and listen… learn… understand. (Check this article out for my complete script to navigating a chat)
These people know how the system works and how to beat it. Your goal is to find out what they did and how you can do the same.
I guarantee most people will still not do this and they will stay average. You have to change your actions to get different results.
Along with that secret, here are my observations on the differences between above-average and average people:
Performing above-average means:
- Always be curious and surround yourself with above-average people with diverse interests (you are the average of the 5 people you associate with the most)
- Organically find mentors by building a relationship with people who killed it from your university
- Build your network through cold-emailing and informational chats
- Explore career interests through internships or other means
- Spend your summer doing anything BUT summer classes
Being average means:
- Don’t think about your career -- it’ll work itself out
- Spend 80% of your time on getting good grades
- Spend your summers working at the local café and taking summer classes (retail work is great, but too much can block you from other skill-building opportunities)
- Follow a predefined track without assessing if it’s a good personal fit (ie. grad school)
Being above-average is a choice. You have to consciously choose to spend less time doing things, and more time hustling. Think like an above-average person.
Answer this Question:
What are you going to do right now to prevent spending the next 10 years in a job you hate just to pay back student debt? Reply back and let me know