You Are NOT a Unicorn. College Matters.

College matters.  It just does.

But it doesn’t matter because President Obama said so.

And it doesn’t matter because I say so.

Or because you tell your kids that it does.

✪ It matters because of the cold, hard fact that we all live and work in an ever increasingly competitive and specialized career environment.

✪ It matters because of the common-sense truth, that personal accomplishment counts in our world.

So, if you don’t hold aspirations to work and succeed in the professional realm, then this piece is not for you.  Please carry on.

Otherwise, let me start with this:

You are not Mark Zuckerberg.  You are not Frank Lloyd Wright.  Or Steve Jobs.  Or Bill Gates.

I’m sorry, but you’re just not.  Each of those wildly successful, ultra intelligent, over-the-moon, non-graduates is an extreme (EXTREME!!) exception to almost every rule.  They are gifted.  They are blessed.  They are Unicorns.

You are not a Unicorn.

Which means that you’re living and working with the rest of us mere mortals.  And doing all of that in this day-and-age requires every advantage and edge that you can get.

Consider this…..(But first, NOTE: The author of this article is not an expert on your personal happiness.  For advice in this area, please consult a trained professional):

Money.  Pew Research found that a recent college graduate with a full-time job earns about $18,000 more / year than someone with a high school diploma ($46,000 to $28,000). That’s 40% more.  And the money gap trend increases into your 40’s where you will make 50% more than a non-graduate.  Add that up over your career and it’s into the millions.  I do not apologize for my belief (and the fact) that money talks.

Opportunity.  According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the ten year window of 2012-2022, 19 of the 30 occupations where the needed workforce will grow the fastest require a post-secondary education, and all 19 of those areas bring wages higher than the national median.

And just a bit more from the Department of Cold, Hard Facts: Unemployment rates (Pew again) for those age 25+ with a HS diploma: 6.3%.  College grad: 3.4%. Double. You don’t need me to embellish that.  Those numbers stand on their own.

Food for thought:  I had a tough time taking a Mayoral candidate for our town seriously as an executive leader (great-guy, life-long resident and very hard worker), because he didn’t have a degree.  IMHO, personal improvement counts.  Employers feel the same way.

Competition.  It doesn’t matter if you are early, mid or late career.  A college degree is a differentiator when you are looking for a promotion, more responsibility or a new job with a new company.  Why?  Because PLENTY of others in your field are looking to move up too.

And consider this, according to Federal Reserve Economic Data, recent college grads are unemployed at a rate of 3.8%.  And those in the same 20-25 age range with only a High School diploma? 12.2%.  Again, I’m not good with the numbers, but even I can wrap my head around that.

One last thing about Competition.  My firm is an executive search firm.  More and more we see clients giving us this specification: “Bachelor’s Degree required; MBA preferred”.  What does that tell us?  A college degree is the MINIMUM level of education you need to be hired for (and move forward with) a successful manager/executive track  And don’t get me started on the quality of the school you pick!

So there we have it:  Money.  Opportunity.  Competition.

Like much of the rest of life, a college degree is a means to those ends.

Unless you’re a Unicorn.

Bruce Martin
About the author: 

Bruce Martin is the President of Broad & Pattison, Inc., the leading management and executive recruiting firm serving the U.S. automotive industry. He also leads Exit 17, Inc., the parent company of Driven.  His career includes executive assignments with Chrysler Group, GE Capital and Adecco, NA. Follow Bruce on Twitter and LinkedIn