New Media is Changing How We Feel about Education and Career

This is a guest post from Christine Gallagher of Communicate Value.

Gen Y grew up with the internet.  Some of us first encountered it in high school; others of us can’t remember a time when we were ever without it. 

We’re used to doing everything online.  We know how to find things there—anything we care to.  The physical yellow pages are an oddity.  If we come across a brick and mortar store that doesn’t have a website, we’re aghast—and feel somewhat sorry for them.  If we meet you, you are under 35, and you don’t have a Facebook account, we get thoroughly confused.

“But, but, I don’t…understand.  You’re not ON it?”

Ok, perhaps some of this is a slight exaggeration.  However, it’s not too far off.  Technology is a way of life.  And not just in the sense of socializing and looking up facts and figures or the closest coffee shop. 

Education and Work Experience

The question has been raised in the blogosphere recently, most notably by Brian Solis, about whether a traditional education experience is necessary or benefitting of a 15 year old who has already run and sold a start-up company in their spare time. 

I’d like to take this further and ask whether the traditional scholastic and work experience is necessary for a good portion of our youngest generation.  That may sound overboard, but for people who graduated school in recent years with lots of student loan debt, multiple degrees and disillusioning and boring experiences in their subsequent jobs—the question seems more than fair.  I can only imagine the typical educational and work experience is appearing more and more irrelevant to a good number of young people. 

Of course, there will still be those for whom it makes sense to achieve higher education credentials in order to learn certain skills they need for particular vocations.  But what about those with more entrepreneurial leanings or whose interests lay in areas our school systems are ill-equipped to teach or refuse to pay attention to?

Entrepreneurial Stirrings

Just as much of a concern is the working world many members of this generation are entering into.  The oldest Gen Y have only inhabited this world for just less than ten years now.  Surely there are others who have found it to be slow to adapt, technologically behind, exceedingly rigid and creatively unfulfilling.  One redeeming quality is that it may help awaken entrepreneurial stirrings which allow you see a way out.

Those stirrings lead some to the same place that many younger people have been exposed to since before they were even enrolled in school–the web and its myriad ways to earn a living.  It’s becoming tougher to abide by the traditional workplace and its restricting, old school policies and stiff upper lip.  Things have been changing for awhile now and they haven’t been keeping up.  Stifling schedules, long commutes to the office, lack of adaptability and different definitions of success have caused us to follow our passions elsewhere.  It’s a shame for Corporate America but extremely promising for the future of entrepreneurship.

Embrace Progress

That’s not to say that there aren’t companies out there who are breaking out of the mold and offering young folks a more collaborative and stimulating environment. (Google, anyone?) It’s just that it’s the exception to the rule, and that’s a real problem.

It’s yet another lesson that those who fail to acknowledge or embrace progress will be left in the dust still clinging to old paradigms—while others reap the rewards gained by keeping up with change.  And our generation doesn’t like to wait.

Christine Gallagher is an Online Marketing and Social Media Consultant and Small Business Coach.  Check out Communicate Value, her social media marketing blog, for more on how small business owners can get results with online marketing and social media techniques.

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Image courtesy of Vermin Inc

15 thoughts on “New Media is Changing How We Feel about Education and Career”

  1. Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach

    That’s another reason why I need to really get on the band-wagon regarding all these nifty 3.0 platforms (3.0 for me, mind you – mobile phones and the like).

    Wonder what our grandkids will consider “old-fashioned”….

  2. Gen Y’ers aren’t the only ones looking for a stimulating and interactive environment. I am a Gen X’er and am having trouble finding work in an environment that encourages innovation and creativity. Everything seems to be “hurry-up-and-wait” in the corporate environment. The only reason that I haven’t started my own business is that I lack the skills to do the basic chores of keeping it running and the money to pay those with those skills. It’s a conundrum!

  3. Stephen - Rat Race Trap

    Christine, you are so right:

    “It’s yet another lesson that those who fail to acknowledge or embrace progress will be left in the dust still clinging to old paradigms—while others reap the rewards gained by keeping up with change.”

    Most traditional big corporations can pretty much kiss it goodbye unless they get with the program.

  4. Hi Christine!

    Great to see you here! By traditional scholastic experience being college – if that’s what you’re thinking – I still see a benefit to college. Maybe it will evolve in some form. One of the big benefits I see to college is the connections we make with others – and a transitional period toward fuller independence. College provides that in many ways. Is it needed? No. It’s just that I do see some benefit from this. Traditional work experiences – this I can see where it may be less necessary – as we maybe move in new directions. The future will be different than it is today – that much we know for sure!

    Karl, thanks for having Christine here!

  5. @Barbara–Exactly, it boggles the mind to think about where technology will be 20, 10 even 5 years down the road. I joke about how my 2 year old niece already knows how to get to YouTube on an iPhone and see all the Mickey cartoons! 🙂

    @Lance–Thanks! Yes, I was being a bit provocative there–I do agree with you in terms of the experience of independence and connections made. I think where it gets interesting is when people assume all 18 year olds need the academic experience of college in order to succeed. Or that the education is always worth the insane amount of debt some people come out with.

    With work experience, of course there will always be employees just as there will always be entrepreneurs. What’s fascinating to me is how things seem to be shifting more and more among younger people away from the traditional career paths. It will be exciting to see how it plays out in the future.

  6. Liked the tone of the article, as a home education family we are more about what our boys can achieve which brings them happiness and fulfillment. We want them to have great careers doing what they want to. College may provide a transition phase, but its not totally required, most of what interests the is not going to be found in school at this time, including college.
    I am too old to officially be gen y (maybe) but returned to college a few years ago to study ICT. What they were teaching was so far removed from what I needed. I have learned more in the two years I would have spent doing the degree, by being out working hard.

  7. These are good points. The question is how does a traditional education provide value in today’s technological world? As someone who was born in 64 (part of what they call the Jones Generation)I saw the change happen from no computers, to computers that provided functional support to todays’ world where technology embraces big aspects of our community.

    I’m not sure how long it will take companies or schools to adapt to these changes because they were both built on a foundation of beliefs that have shaped our systems. Like previous changes the change will usually come from within and as more Gen Y’ers go into the work world they’ll make changes. Next generation will provide more change. Most of the Gen Y’ers I know still go for the education and student loans, etc… so it might not even be them who make the real change.

  8. I think Christine raises an interesting point. I read somewhere that schools basically prepare people to be college professors. We definitely need an overhaul of the education system.

  9. LifeMadeGreat | Juliet


    We seem to very much still be in a culture where you “need” to have credentials. Well, certainly here in South Africa. And I’m not sure that people are even open to giving others a chance.

    I did a degree in civil engineering. I have worked for only one year in that field (and now have around 10 years work experience in other lines), but the skills that I learned during that degree have been incredibly valuable. Perhaps further studies are not always necessary, but they do have a place.

    What I think needs to be changed is the schooling system. There needs to be more openmindedness there.


  10. Great post Christine!

    I’ve actually been questioning the value of college. I went to college. I do have a good job now because of that piece of paper, but I’m not sure how instrumental my education was in landing this job. I actually got this job because of the networking done in college.

    Some people may not agree, but I think college is still worth the price. However, if you have the opportunity to start a company, I work pursue that and maybe give college a try at a later date. I actually started a company while in college and it did well, but for a short time due to the timing of the market and the niche.


  11. I recently had a conversation with colleagues about all the skills I didn’t learn in college that would come in really handy right now – communication, feedback, networking, confidence building. Maybe it’s time for schools to “catch up” with the times.

  12. hey christine, this is a great post and as somebody have said earlier, we definately need an education system overhaul!

  13. @Catherine–Yup, no matter what generation, finding creativity in corporate is rare. It can be really frustrating.

    The skills that you mention you lack–how willing are you to learn them? There are plenty of things I didn’t know when I took the leap. Not that that is always a good thing, but with me, it was like if I didn’t just DO it I would be waiting around trying to learn everything I thought I needed to know before getting started. But you will never know it all and so much in small business is learning on the “job” as you go. I encourage you to go after those dreams anyway!

    @Stephen–I like how you put that–getting “with the program.” That is so how I see it. Out of touch for some of these companies might mean out of business.

    @Andrew–How important it is to emphasize those qualities to your children. The importance of happiness and fulfillment are so often glazed over (or completely avoided) both in school and in work. Good for you.

    What you find with learning more by actually doing the work as opposed to when you were in school is very common. It’s part of why attitudes toward college and how well it did or didn’t prepare them tend to go sour once people are out.

    @Kevin–Agreed, many of the current generation are still going for the traditional experience. But the change is still creeping in. It just may be a generation or two down the line that we see any real massive shift.

    @Marelisa–That’s funny, I have heard something similar before. I also hear people joke about if higher education is the key to great success and financial reward, then why don’t college professors make more than they do? Something to think about.

    @Juliet–The school system is definitely part of the problem. I think studies can be very valuable and beneficial as you expressed–it is just that often, the quality of education itself is sorely lacking.

    @Dustin–You raise a good point. It seems a lot of people credit their landing good jobs to “who they know.” Not to say that the degree didn’t give them a push, but it’s interesting, isn’t it? Networking can be so powerful.

    @Stacey–Amen! The skills you mention are some of the most critical in not only work, but life. Is it too much to ask that we be educated in them considering all the money we spend? Hmmm.

    @William–Glad you enjoyed it!

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