Thoughts on Training and Education for Gen Z
#Unautomatable consistency wk 8/26
The evolving field of online educational technology is providing a new lens through which to view workforce development.
While academia has long since stopped truly “educating the whole person,” the fracturing of the university into a multiversity has been slow and steady.
The most apparent litmus test for this is to simply go to a university campus and to ask any student around “Why are you here?” You’re likely to promptly receive the underwhelming response “So I can get a good job.”
What happened to educating “the whole person?” What happened to learning how to think, speak, and write.
This is what our society values? Getting a good job?
After 15 years in private and public university systems teaching and learning, I can wholeheartedly yet sadly confirm that it is.
What I thought
In fact, this line of thinking is pretty much where I started in 2006. “Highest starting salary, highest starting salary - good at math and science - OK, Mechanical Engineering it is!”
A decade later, I finally escaped. Only then could I start elucidating the other parts of myself that were left barren, cold, and unloved by my university experience.
I finally got to ask questions like “what are the best books that have ever been written, and why?” “What do I want to learn next, really, and why?” “Do I actually believe all of the things schools of engineering beat into my head?” “How do I feel about art, literature, poetry, and music?”
Did it at least work?
I did get a job. Mostly, though, for many years after graduation, I got jobs within or closely tied to the university itself.
If that was truly my initial goal - getting a job and making money - and I would’ve had better tools to help me get there, my life wouldn’t have taken such a circuitous and debt-inducing path. Starting with a net-worth perspective seems to make a lot of sense to me and to everyone else these days, and I don’t think that has particularly changed in the last 20 years. For whatever reason, though, the solution to the net worth problem back then was obviously to start with massive debt.
These days, times have changed.
My advice for my daughter
My daughter, Evelyn, was born in 2007 and will be 15 years old in just under 2 months, making her a solid Zoomer. This is apparently what they call Gen Z’ers, which somehow feels incredibly fitting to me.
Zoom is a new verb and noun for all of us, like Google before it.
Evelyn is currently a freshman in high school and has just under 38 months until she turns 18, so I think about what advice I have to give her about her career.
For some additional context, keep in mind that she’s been producing content on Tik Tok (formerly Musical.ly) for half a decade or more, while I made my very first Tik Tok just last week. It’s astounding how many iterations of this type of content creation otherwise-shy teenagers produce and learn from on a daily basis in 2022.
So what will my advice for her be, when the “figure out how to get a good job” problem becomes acute enough for her to pay attention to?
My advice will go something like this: allocate 8-12 weeks of your summer after your senior year to pick up a digital, online, remote skill that you can perform asynchronously. Choose an online boot camp for something like digital product design, software development, or data science. Then spend the following month aligning everything in your resume and your portfolio (including your content creation on social media) towards landing an async job for 70-100k that can be done remotely. Work for a few months, and build up some savings.
Then, figure out what you actually want to do next.
In short; pick up training and solve the job problem with maximum flexibility and minimum debt, in a way that is aligned towards genuine value creation in the world. Then figure out what is calling you, and start educating yourself by walking your own unique path.
The possibility of possibilities
Maybe one possible path leads to college or university; but if yours does it will truly be because something meaningful is calling you to a higher purpose. You’ll be able to pay for it along the way, and if it stops calling you, then you can leave. The university will have to be at the top of its game to keep you around.
If you want to start painting or reading the classics, join an online, hybrid, or in-person community of like-minded Zoomers you’re own age on, let’s say, Zoom! Just kidding; all of the kids actually use Google Meet. Google, fitting...
If you want to travel the world and explore while working fully remotely; educating yourself on culture and perspective, then do that. And do it on your own dime, as a truly independent, free, and sovereign adult individual. Ready, set, adventure.
If you want to pursue building your own creator brand through blogging, podcasting, or producing other types of content on social media platforms yet to be created, then do that. In fact, just like we have boot camps like Part Time YouTuber Academy in 2022, we can expect to see more cohort-based courses to streamline the ever-present art of content marketing across platforms of the future.
The transformational online education possibilities that connect you to world-class teachers and learners are getting better all the time. Multiversities will continue to have to compete with the speed of the internet and the volume of free content available online everywhere.
With digital, remote, online, async work, the possibilities to quickly solve the “get a job” problem are endless; especially for any person who is willing, able, and open to being a novice in a new field and quickly iterating towards higher levels of competence, value creation for the company, and ultimate, personal success.
The big picture
In the 21st century, getting ahead isn’t about playing finite games of prestige and permanent titles, studying things that you genuinely couldn’t care less about.
The deluge of freely available online content makes discernment a more important skill than ever before in history. With the library of Alexandria at each of our fingertips, the meta-skill might just be knowing how to leverage the table of contents and the index.
In the 21st century, getting ahead is about letting your curiosity lead you to the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing. It’s about finding flexible and practical means of creating real value in the world right out of the gate so that you can chart your own adventures, walk your own unique path, and ultimately share your journey with the world (#buildinpublic) so that you start exploring and exploiting the countless ways that will allow you to uniquely express being you.
Tying together value creation that the world needs and your unique being-you-ness is the secret to finding your path to enlightenment and unautomatability.
Escape competition through authenicity.
If you want training and a job, get some training and a job.
If you want to become educated, start taking responsibility for educating yourself.
If you don’t know what to do, then get some training, get a job, and then figure out what to do next.
Take the road less traveled.
Go out into the unknown.
As a Gen Z’er, own being a digital native.
Explore the metaverse of employment first, where universities are not likely to help you go in the next few years.
Use training from multiversities all over the world as a tool. If you take boot camps seriously and pick up a skill that genuinely interests you, you can solve your training and job problem in a ridiculously low-cost and high leverage way. Try it.
Avoid debt and the wage-slave trap. Capture freedom and autonomy quickly out of the gate. Develop an independence of operation that generations past could only dream of.
That will put you on the path to unleashing your creativity by leveraging your own unique superpowers.
IMHO, that’s the quickest path towards developing a real education.
Get after it Zoomers; the world needs you.