The Truth About You, Your College Degree and Your Job

This is a guest post and video by Farnoosh Brock of Prolific Living.

Too many times in my engineering degree, I felt frustrated and unhappy. Many more times in my 11-year corporate career, I felt trapped, discouraged and miserable. And I did absolutely nothing about it.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I griped. I complained. I wallowed in my own self-pity. I gossiped with my co-workers about the unfairness of it all, but in hindsight, I did nothing useful, nothing that helped me leave that situation and define a better one that matched what I wanted to do with my life.

I mean, how are we supposed to know any better than doing what our culture and society teaches us: grow up, get a degree, get a job, be good at it, be grateful for it, do it until you retire. The end. How can we stray away from this if we want to be “responsible” and “successful” adults?

Getting a college degree and having a job still have their merits and advantages; both can be fulfilling if it’s the right fit and if it allows you an opportunity to do something you love and find meaningful.

What about the times when that’s not the case and when you can feel miserable going through the motions? First of all, there’s nothing wrong with you for feeling that way. And there’s everything right with you pursuing the right answer.

I went from a corporate junkie to a successful entrepreneur without a single marketing or sales class or startup experience. And now that I have made that seemingly impossible transition, I am passionate about showing you how to do it with a step-by-step plan.

Are You Married to Your Job?

Whoever says you have to stay forever married to your college degree(s) or your first job? Whoever decided that just because you study something for 2 to 4 years or do a job or a few years, that you need to spend a lifetime practicing it all?

A college degree is a way for us to explore our young minds and put them to use, train them and stretch them and in the process, prepare for a lifetime of real work that is aligned to our deep values. A university program is there to open our eyes to the world, not to limit us to look through a single lens forever. And a job can serve as a stepping-stone into the working world, building experience, and finding out what we enjoy … and what we dread.

You do not have to stay married to your education or your company forever. You do not need to live up to anyone’s expectations but your own. You do not get reward points for your loyalty at the end of your life.

So don’t trade what you love and yearn to do for anything else.

What Really Counts!

The true measuring stick is this: Are you contributing to the world in a way that makes sense to you, that makes you happy? If yes, then great. If no, time to change it with a smart plan!

The path to defining and doing what you love is not a clean tidy one like the traditional path seems to be. It can be messy and winding and overwhelming but it is the way – the only way – to true fulfillment, meaningful work, and blissful wealth.

You know, it is a different world than when your parents were growing up. In fact, it’s a different world than when you yourself were growing up! The changes in technology in the last 5 years alone have transformed the way we work and play, and if you don’t take advantage of the “work” piece as much as of the “play” piece, you are missing out big time!

Do You Fear Abandoning Your Education?

Think of it this way: You never “abandon” your learning from that education or your lessons from that job. You take them with you and use the experience toward shaping your dream career and then filling in the gaps with whatever else you need to learn.

As a self-employed thriving entrepreneur, I no longer practice engineering or many of my skills from the corporate world but I draw from the lessons, the analytical thinking, the process of solving a problem, the devotion to thinking clearly and logically with now adding my artistic and creative side to the equation.

And it may be cliché, but some are worth hearing again: You get one shot at this, one time to be 20 or 30 or 50, and one person to answer to at the end of your life. Make sure that person is happy with your choices!

After a long road, I finally made my education and experience work for me, rather than have me slave away for them. I lost years but I am blessed with more, with a sense of urgency like never before, and a happiness that reaffirms my choices every day.

How can you do the same thing?

What are you really yearning to do and how can you make your education and work experience allow you to do that?

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  1. says

    Yet another great article Farnoosh.

    Personally speaking, I always thought real education goes beyond college – it’s a lifelong journey.

    I don’t know about others but I never subscribed to the “get a degree and hunt for a job” mentality. I dropped out of college years ago (I don’t regret it but I still wouldn’t recommend it to anyone) and since then life has taught me a lot. Things that I wouldn’t get to learn in college.

    Even if I dropped out, I didn’t do it cause I had no clue about my life or goals. But because I had a vision and I couldn’t wait to work on it. I still believe that most people aren’t cut to take such a risk with their education. Everybody’s different.

    The most important thing to realize is that college degree or not, you should try to break out of the mundane rat race. And learn how to think larger than life.
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  2. says

    I have noticed that what people major/focus in on college is sometimes not necessary to get a certain job. Just like your story, you could have done engineering but then eventually branch off into other types of work.

    It really is experience that can help you get a job that you want. Sometimes people can be book smart but as soon as they step into the corporate world, they lack the common sense that is almost necessary to be successful.

    • says

      Robert, that’s very true. I did do engineering – a lot of it – but then I ended up moving miles and miles away from it. I love the mention of common sense and practical application of a learning tool…. There are so many times I wondered how on earth I will ever use a course but I am sure it all worked itself into my system somehow. :) That’s what my husband insists. Thanks for your comments, Robert.
      Farnoosh just posted Motivation: 5 Quick & Dirty Tips to Automate the Return of the Spark

  3. says

    I actually got an engineering degree as well and ended up ‘abandoning’ it. However, I learned a long time ago (somewhere in my second year of college) that University was just about learning how to think.
    There’s no better degree, in my opinion, that will teach you how to think like engineering. It’s applicable in every situation and I don’t feel bad at all for not doing traditional engineering work.
    I did feel really bad about it when I quit my first engineering job, but not anymore :).
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  4. says

    Hey Farnoosh,

    Very inspirational article especially for those who are stuck in their jobs and don’t really know how to get out of the rut. All this seems like my own story – frustrating job, tiring days, losing confidence, constant whining. Though in my case, circumstances pushed me to quit my job to take care of my family commitments, it would have been far better if I could come up with a proper exit plan myself in time. I’m building up my career all afresh now and hope to make better use of my education and learnings than what I could in my corporate job.
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  5. says

    Hi Farnoosh,

    I am sure many people can relate to this. I studied architecture and never touched a pencil professionally but what I really learned was the way I could work with people and get the best out of them. I learned I could organize and come up with brilliant (and sometimes mad) ideas. Many people seem to forget that kind of learning when they get their first job and stick with that because it aligns to their education. Most people wait a lot longer than 12 years to make the change. I waited about 15 to start my own company. It is all about perspective and mindset.

    Nik just posted Returning to work after maternity leave

      • says

        Yeah I really like my job. What people do need to realize is that even I have parts of my job I do not like and no-one is going to convince me that they love their jobs 100% of the time. Doing expenses is something that I do not love but still need to do it. The odd customer from “heaven” or sales people who cold call all the time. I do got a solution for sales people now since they often don’t like their jobs I try to sell them a career change but still it interrupts your flow. If you do 95% of the time what you love, you are doing very well.
        Nik just posted I hate my job [infographic]