“When it comes to education, this generation aims high. Millennials currently enrolled in high school, college or graduate school are particularly ambitious — about half want to go on to earn a graduate or professional school degree.” – “Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change”, PewResearch, February 24, 2010
Guest Post by Danny Rubin
A story by Nick Anderson in The Washington Post describes how young professionals are funneling into colleges and universities at a record pace for advanced diplomas. Anderson says that from 2000 to 2012, the number of master’s degrees rose 63 percent.
A plain ol’ bachelor’s won’t cut it anymore. Millennials need specialized skills to enhance our resumes and land positions with higher salaries.
Then again, a degree is just a piece of paper. A master’s might lead to a new job or pay increase, but once you’re in the work world, how do you stay one step ahead?
The answer: Treat every day of your life as a master’s degree.
Here’s what I mean:
- In the real world, no one is handing out grades or tabulating GPAs. You are now seeking your post-master’s degree, and there is no curriculum. All that counts is how hard you’re willing to work on yourself.
- There is a how-to blog post for just about every piece of technology or trick of the trade. Don’t get frustrated and give up; just Google it.
- Use job postings (e.g., Craigslist) in your industry to understand what employers crave. The more specific, the better. Here’s a list of optimal skills for a programmer at a travel company in DC: “C# experience strongly preferred; Proficiency in data analysis & development with RDBMS, MS SQL(CRUD, stored procedures, views)” If you want to be a programmer — or work in Web development — then you may need RDBMS, MS SQL, etc… How do I know? Because Kirk McDonald said so.
- You are now the student, TA, professor and dean of your lifelong master’s program. If you drop out, you’re only letting yourself down.
- Accept the fact that you’ll need to learn a lot — and usually for free. You can’t make money doing the work until you first know how it’s done.
- There is deep fulfillment from grasping a subject that once seemed foreign to you.
- Find yourself asking this question in the office: “Can you show me how to do that?”
- Prepare for a client presentation the same way you crammed for finals. Except this time, get a good night’s sleep.
- Once you learn something new, do it 25 times over. Then 50 more. Once isn’t enough to make the lesson stick.
- In your 20s (and the rest of your life), you must be a sponge. Remain open to and fully absorb new skills, especially those that intimidate you. The daunting tasks often carry the greatest reward.
- Find yourself asking this question at networking events: “Which skills are most in-demand right now?”
- Read something every day. A chapter of a book, an article (here’s a bunch), a blog post. Anything.
- A master’s degree, while valuable, is expensive. Your free time, while valuable, is essential. Think of your down-time as ‘class in session.’
- Understand that a master’s degree is the start, not end, of your education.
- Always be ready to take notes.
Six years ago, I earned my master’s in journalism from the University of Maryland-College Park. From then on, I have been pursuing my lifelong master’s degree. This time around, there is no graduation, commencement speech (like this one from a 26-year-old), mortarboard or tassels. I am still enrolled and have no plans of quitting. A devotion to new skills is the only way up.
Congrats to the 2013 master’s graduates. Now let’s get to work.
Danny Rubin is the managing editor of News To Live By, a blog for Millennials that highlights the career advice and leadership lessons “hidden” in the day’s top stories. Don’t just read the news — use it to gain an edge on the job. You can follow the blog at @NewsToLiveBy. – See more at: Damn Right I’m Part of the “Me Me Me” Generation.
Join the Conversation
The Millennial Generation? More Like the Master’s Generation.
The 2013 census has a 11.75% masters degree attainment, coupled with this fact that respondents indicating in high school they want to achieve a masters degree level education, does not equate to a “masters generation.” Particularly, in light of the rising cost of college and other sociological factors, your brief and inferring article fascinates me from a brevity perspective. Your foregoing article serves to perpetuate a notion that is unfounded in fact or anyone else’s analysis (inclusive of the article you referenced), as opposed to dispelling a notion or providing informing facts, which is the objective of someone who is a real journalist and does not multiply words for someone like me to shake my head at and wonder what you are doing with the English language and an inference.
Most of the generation you refer to do not acquire degrees at all. Second, a very small amount of people acquire masters degrees and they are intended for people with work experience in their respective fields. Third, so much of what your field in plays into whether or not one needs to further advance their education. You may be able to give advice to journalists and bloggers but you clearly do not understand that in every field there is an often esoteric way up the ladder that differs extraordinarily from field to field even within professions.
As to your assumption that this is the “masters generation” or whatever arguably ageist label you associate with my generation, masters degrees may be up to a higher percentage, but it’s hovering around 11% of the populace nonetheless in terms of master degrees or higher attainment across all ages. I think you illustrate a lack of understanding as to the statistical tendencies of the group you are attempting to “coach.” I also think it is arrogant. To me, your article is telling as to exactly what is wrong when people look at the problems facing my generation without actually doing the substantive research to identify and address the real problems. Real problems include the affordability of college, ensuring that our generation is not saddled with the horrific aftermath of expensive social programs and making education more practical. The world is changing faster than ever and we are adapting. While we adapt, give my generation some credit. A lot of my friends including me own houses and work great jobs. Most people though, have it rough, because their life situation is rough and the economic uncertainty we were born into was not our fault.
I find your enumerated “tips” more agonizing than your attempt to lump a label on a group of people you clearly are out of touch with. Most of my generation is resourceful, angry at the previous generations’ lack of economic discipline and while we quietly roll our eyes we are also aware of the burdens and social changes that we will need to eventually make in this country. Pundits like you we ignore and find laughable. Don’t fool yourself into thinking any of your inferences count for anything more than a multiplication of words.
Great tips here, Danny! Whether through advanced degrees or an education of your own making, being a lifelong learner no longer seems an option but rather a requirement of success.
I might add one more to your terrific list of suggestions: Take advantage of training opportunities. Many companies offer workshops, lunch-and-learns, guest speakers, etc. that people often don’t attend, even when they’re offered at no cost. I encourage clients to jump on those whenever they can!
Thanks for the ideas!
That’s a great addition, Christi. I am big fan of lunchtime webinars. My college offers them to alums. Easy to watch and FREE.
I thoroughly enjoyed your guest post. Jon, many thanks for connecting us all with Danny.
Danny, your post got me thinking about my own qualifications. Indeed, you’re right. These days, degrees alone just don’t cut it. Sure they can help, but I believe the real development in a person begins as soon as he/she enters the workplace. Unfortunately, I think the education system (particularly in the UK) doesn’t equip young people with the right skills for the modern workplace. I liked what you wrote about being like a sponge, as it is this mind-set that is needed to enable one to start learning workplace skills needed in the 21st century.
Couldn’t agree with you more. The further I go in my career, the more I relish opportunities to learn new things or — better yet — have someone teach me a skill I didn’t know. I’d be foolish to think my master’s degree in 2007 was all I needed to ‘make it’ in this world.