Today, I want to tell you one story.
It’s a story about figuring things out the hard way.
Truth be told; I have not graduated from college. I dropped out of the University of Central Florida, when I had two semesters of elective credits left unchecked on my degree audit.
So one year ago, I cut the formal education section from my resume and never pasted it back.
Why am I announcing this today?
Because of a first-round interview question, asked by a hiring manager who never called back.
“You do not have education listed on your resume,” he said in an asking manner.
This is the second time since I removed it a year ago that someone called me out on it.
(The first time I was asked by a recruiter for a consultant position. Her face literally changed when I told her I did not graduate, sort of how the second interviewers’ voice changed over the phone.)
I am going to give these people the benefits of the doubt by blaming my answers to their question as the reason I never heard back, and today, I am sharing my best prepared response to this question so if and when it arises, I know what to tell them.
The Internship Phase
It started mid-2011, when I decided I needed to intern. I applied for an internship at a local newspaper in Florida, called the Sun Sentinel. Shortly after, I was hired.
While it was a part-time, unpaid gig, I worked full-time hours because I loved it. It is where I discovered my passion for marketing.
The internship lasted three months, and it opened the door to adding more lines on my resume and pieces in my portfolio.
I went back to school in the fall, and I registered on InternQueen.com, where I applied to a company in New York, called MusicSkins, now Zing Revolution.
This was another valuable experience because I learned more things I grew to love and be pretty good at, such as search engine optimization (SEO), building websites on Wordpress and creating lookbooks in Adobe Photoshop.
In early 2012, I wrapped up my second internship.
To be honest, I would not have quit this internship if it were not for my father.
He supported me through these unpaid, experience opportunities and decided it was time for me to support myself.
(This is the pivotal moment in my story. It’s when my priorities changed from doing well in school to doing well in life.)
The Freelanship Phase
Wrongly infuriated with my father for cutting me off, I realized there were millions of others with a similar dilemma.
To be successful, you need professional work experience, but the overwhelming majority of college students do not have the time to gain it.
In fall 2011, there were 22 million people enrolled in colleges across the nation yet only an estimated two million students decided to undertake an internship.
Why? They know employers want to see one to two internships on graduates’ resumes.
Because 66 percent of students would have to work a SECOND job to support themselves through an unpaid internship.
This is how Freelanship (freelance + internship) came to life. I decided students needed an internship alternative through the form of a website, listing project-based internships.
I incorporated Freelanship in early 2012, around the same time I was wrapping up a cover story for Orlando Weekly.
At 21, I was attempting to manage four classes and solve the internship crisis for my peers all while simultaneously searching for a salaried marketing position and writing for various publications.
The Career Phase
I had all this great experience now, why shouldn’t someone want to hire me, I naively thought to myself; and so, I went to the career center for a resume review, bought a suit and began applying to jobs.
The toughest thing was hearing: Well, we have an unpaid, internship that we think you would be perfect for.
Unfortunately, I could not afford an unpaid internship anymore.
The career search was a lot harder than I suspected, but I propelled through the rejections. In about one month, I landed a job as a marketing director for a local print shop.
From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., I wrote blog posts, created marketing strategies and designed brand assets. At 6 p.m., I ran into class to work on “fake” projects a.k.a. projects that were not feeding my goals to learn and earn, launch a company and get published.
StartUp Orange County opened my eyes to a new form of education, called mentoring, and so, naturally, professors and their projects began to bore me.
I was learning more than I ever had in my life. Mentors taught me how to write business plans, conduct financial projections and design pitch decks.
They did not just teach me hard skills. They taught me about the professional landscape too.
I was experiencing the professional world for the first-time. I loved it, and so there was no way I was giving up time spent on Freelanship, and I certainly was not going to give up my source of income, a.k.a. my career.
Naturally, college got the short-end of the stick. I just didn’t see its value anymore.
It was not easy. It was really, really hard. I was supporting myself though, and I was gaining invaluable skills.
Do I regret letting my classes slip?
If I did not skip my classes then I would not have had time to learn how to write a business plan, build a professional network or incorporate a business. If I never dropped out of my classes, I would never be where I am today professionally and emotionally.
Yes, there will be some jobs I can never have because I do not have a college degree, but guess what, those are the jobs I never want to have.
In the words of Steve Jobs, “You cannot connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
I trust in my gut that the dots will keep connecting in my future. If I did not I would have never dropped out of college.