A letter to Josie Altucher (and anyone else considering university)
You don’t know me, but I’m a big fan of your dad’s work. So when I read he felt like a failure because you’re planning to go to university, I wanted to chip in.
Firstly, I don’t blame you. The four years I spent at university were some of the most enjoyable of my life. Among my fondest memories are the spontaneous drinking sessions on Monday evenings. Our standard excuse was avoiding Dublin’s rush hour gridlock. However, my attendance record on a Tuesday- or any day incidentally- wasn’t exactly stellar.
That wasn’t my first experience of student life though. I only lasted a couple of months of my original degree in history, politics and psychology. Ironically, it would have been most appropriate for the career I’ve ended up in nearly 20 years later.
I swapped to a degree in hotel management and stuck with it. But after graduating, I spent a year as a barman and I realised that I didn’t want to work in hospitality.
I then headed to Buffalo, NY to pursue a Master in Sports Administration. I spent eight years in the sports industry, but a lack of direction left me disillusioned.
So I decided to ‘choose myself’ and became a freelance copywriter. I got lots of things wrong and didn’t earn much, so when a job fell in my lap, I took it. Fast forward twelve months, and I was made redundant.
After struggling to find another job, I decided to try freelancing again. This time though, I was able to learn from my mistakes and made a living wage. Six months later, I started a year- long contract with a bank and earned six figures. Even better, I was writing about a topic I really enjoyed- one that I’d never even studied.
My point is this. The most rewarding period of my career- both financially and personally- was when I was my own boss. As painful as it is to admit this, all those years of formal education played a limited role in this success. So, unless you’re ultra-focused on a particular path- which I admittedly wasn’t- consider skipping university. It requires a significant investment in time and resources, whereas my biggest return came from choosing myself.
Whatever route you pick, I wish you the best of luck. Life is a blank canvas when you leave school, and that’s an exciting prospect.
Keith McGuinness Bsc Ma MBA CIM*
*I also managed to pick up an MBA and marketing qualification along the way, neither of which I properly leveraged