Drop out of school if you want to get ahead

11 April, 2018 Phil Johnson

If you’re looking to validate your opinion on this matter with a “Steve Jobs dropped out and he was successful” conclusion this is not your article.

I want to pose the idea that focussing all your efforts full-time on the traditional school to university pathway will hold you back a few years in life experience.

Cue my colleague Jasper.  He’s 18 years old, has two years full-time corporate experience in sales and began a Bachelor of Business while his high school classmates were still in school.

I would say he’s most things a parent would want of their child.  A high performer, earning good money and gaining worldly experiences several years before his now full-time university peers.

He also dropped out of high school.

It’s fair to say in retrospect that this decision served Jasper well –  and looking back I wish I had done the same.

The reason I think this path is an option worth entertaining has nothing to do with time or money, or pointing to *insert billionaire* who also dropped out.

It’s to do with finding the best pathway to sharpen your axe for life.

It’s to do with eliminating self limiting beliefs and distancing yourself from false expectations that you have to be of a certain age, or a certain seniority and have a certain piece of paper to chase your goals.

Spending a long time in higher education, both as a student and a student leader, I got the opportunity to gauge a pretty good profile of the modern university student.

I saw the best and worst of the university system – I was the conduit to the bureaucrats when the university worked against students.  This was an eye opening experience that gave me a dutiful sense of purpose to help connect students to industry now that I’ve graduated.

When I meet with student groups now, I identify many similarities to my former student self.

What I see is rooms full of fee paying talented people held back waiting for false validations.

Waiting until they graduate to go for a good job, waiting until second year to apply for the internship, waiting for the good semester that boosts their GPA enough to apply for the right position.

I believe the average student is so sold into the boundaries of the education system that they are waiting for the permission to do life.

The painfully ironic thing is that based on employment outcomes there’s never been a worse time to be a university graduate.

And this is all happening in times where vocal industry commentators are saying that life skills are the hardest trait to find in Millennial employees.

Clearly the classroom is not the place to be looking for life experience.

A UK industry body suggested the most lacked employment skills in Millenials were: ‘Working life’ skills, self awareness and confidence, communication skills and commercial skills.

Knowing that, if I had the time to pick my pathway again, I would chose to double down on these skills at a younger age.  I’d put university on the backburner for a while and fiercely pursue more authentic opportunities for self development, making the pursuit of the “piece of paper” a side project.

But most certainly, I would have chosen to drop out of high school.


Originally posted on LinkedIn

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