The Experience Deficiency

May 11, 2013 / Education

I recently spoke with an MBA student who wanted to get into advertising. She said that it seemed like an interesting industry, and wanted to learn more about the interactive side of it.

One of my colleagues talked about how the agency was organized and what the day-to-day was like. I mentioned my experience trying to run a business in college, and talked about the advantages of writing.

When asked if she wanted to know anything specific to working on interactive projects, or had any questions in general.

“No,” she replied. “I just want to sit and listen.”

She seemed like a sweet girl. She was quiet, and probably a bit nervous. But that line struck a cord with me — This girl had no idea what she wanted to do.

Your Parents Love You, but They Are Wrong

There is an experience deficiency in young Americans. Many are swimming in educational experience (and possibly drowning in debt), but have no direction. We spend so many years locked away in classrooms that the rest of the world seems foreign.

There are a few reasons for this experience deficiency today. Foremost, we have a cultural sentiment that believes the more education you have, the better off you will be. This was true at one point in time, but certainly isn’t the case today. The price of education is inflationary. If you spend time on Hacker News, you will quickly discover the contempt most startups have for education. Entrepreneurs see a disconnect between what is valuable and what is taught.

Over-protective parents may also be a cause. Trust me, I know. If my mother had it her way, I’d be getting my masters in business right now. There is a reason parents push education. The education equals success equation was true while they were in school. Your parents love you, but they are wrong.

Law is such a popular profession because it is glamorized in movies and television shows. When students have no other experiences they often turn to law. After all, a law degree is the ultimate sign of academic achievement. But it is not a good choice for most. Climbing the legal ladder takes time, hours are long, and the casework can be tedious. On top of that the underemployment crisis has driven more Generation-Y students into law,and producing many more lawyers than we need.

Students Don’t Need More Education, They Need More Experiences

The current model is backwards. We need to encourage students to figure out what they want to do, before allowing them to spend money on education. Students don’t need more education, they need more experiences.

I’m often critical of colleges, but they have an opportunity to be part of the solution. Want to lower the drop-out rate? Require students to have an internship, before accepting them. Help financially support study abroad and independent study programs.

If you are a student I’d encourage you to take a gap year. Work a few internships, pick up a new hobby, or start a business. The more experiences you have, the better off you will be.