The Big Reality Check

“You take the blue pill, you wake up and believe..whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes”.

Most career advice given to people over the last 40 years has been misguided at best and downright dangerous at worst. The West was caught in the grip of a “follow your dreams” craze that is only now just beginning to end. I want you to watch the below video, then watch it again.

Take it in and really internalise it. This is the reality of the job market, and indeed the world for young people leaving school now. In this utterly awful economic climate, there are far more people looking for jobs than there are actual jobs. And not just by a small margin. I live in Australia which has been relatively unaffected by the GFC – nevertheless thanks to poor government business profit and confidence is at an all time low. I’ve applied for jobs recently that had over 750 applicants for a single position. The recruiter only knows how many of those people were actually qualified for the position, but if you assume only 1/7 of them were, you’re still at a less than 1% chance of getting the job (in terms of pure numbers).

I’m not going to go on a rant about what the real world is really like and try to throttle the living daylights out of your dreams, but that video above? Like I said, that is reality. Chasing your dreams sounds like such quaint, silly advice now doesn’t it? This is what you have to take into account in the lead up to high school graduation. Is going to university really the right decision? It seems like the done thing nowadays, but for 3/4 of the people that go, it is both a time and money sink. A degree on its own, in anything but the STEM fields, is almost worthless. Degrees simply don’t mean anything anymore. Most people would be far better off getting an entry level job at a company – any company, and working their way up. In the 3-4 years you would spend on a degree that gives you zero career capital, you will have been earning a full time salary and most probably be on a higher pay than the university student would have been on in their first year. You won’t have any student debt, and you’ll have already built up a level of expertise in your job and thus, career momentum, that will have you climbing the ladder much more quickly than the university graduate.

This is why, if you have time left in high school, it’s time to really knuckle down and get good results. For a young person leaving school, results are the only career capital you have. You don’t have experience, you haven’t proven yourself in any way (unless you’ve held a job while you were at school), so why should any employer take you on? This is what parents and so many school advisers don’t tell you because it was different in their day. In their day, there was a job for everyone. Now, it is more like a job for every fifth young person leaving school. This is why you need to achieve – you need to stand out, and it’s your only way of doing so.

It’s time for another reality check for the recent high school/university graduate – there is almost no job beneath you. Holding out for something better will see you on food stamps/in the unemployment line. “But I can do so much better!” I hear you say. I don’t doubt that you can, but it is going to take a few years of hard work and slumming it to “do better”. The only people stepping into their dream fields are those people you generally refer to as nerds or geeks, who have spent their time at school achieving and are now reaping the rewards. The good news for you is that if you start caring and achieving now, you are only a couple of years behind them.

Did you know the phrase “carpe diem” doesn’t just mean “seize the day”, it actually means “seize the day, for we know not what tomorrow shall bring”. In other words, it wasn’t some sort of olden day version of YOLO, it was telling you to do things today in order to prepare for tomorrow. Now that you have had the necessary reality check, it’s time to work out how to move forward and begin your adult life.

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