Thinking about dropping out of college takes courage. Whether or not making the leap is the right thing to do is a personal choice, but if you are seriously considering it you'll need a plan to land on your feet.
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”
– Alan Lakein
There are several key elements to a successful post-dropout plan. Here are a few of the most important ones you should focus on:
Explore the Job Market
The unfortunate truth about the world is that you need money to live. No one is trading salt for iron work anymore. Currency is king, but you already knew that. There is always the possibility that you have a business idea that you want to launch now, but remember that jobs are beneficial for two reasons. One, they can fund your true passion. For example, let's look at millionaire DJ Calvin Harris. Calvin worked as a grocery clerk while he developed his sound. That's not a glorious job, but it gave him the money he needed to focus on his passion at night. Second, jobs can, and often are, stepping stones to new jobs, which leads us to...
Porter Gale, The ex-VP of Marketing at Virgin America says, "Your Network is Your Net Worth." Guess what? She’s right. In the professional world who you know, plus a developed skillset, equals a quality paying job. The more people you meet, the more doors you open with large neon lights that have “opportunity!” engraved in them. If your network is small, that doesn’t bode well for you. If you don’t take the time to develop your network, all the doors you have available will lead back to your parents’ couch – and we know you don’t want that. Get out there and meet people. Go to Meetups in your area, events or anything to connect you to other people. And don’t just pass out business cards – be a resource for them as well. When you’re networking, don’t think about “what can I get from this person?” Instead, think about what you can give them or what you can do for them. Don’t expect anything in return, just give without expectations. There’s a reason it’s the number one power networking tip. Later on, if you need something, you can come to this person as a friend, and they’ll be more likely to help you because you helped them as a friend would.
Just a side note: most people do networking wrong.
Networking isn’t halloween. It’s not about getting the most candy in your pocket, yet most people play the who-can-get-the-most-business-cards game. The result of this game is that you end up with a bunch of business cards and can’t remember who they belong to or anything about that person. A business card is worthless unless you make a connection with someone. Spend more time developing relationships than trying to collect as many cards as possible. Then, make sure you take the time to follow up with them via email and set the relationship up to survive and thrive.
Find a Mentor
Who do you admire? Who has more experience and skills than you do in your area of interest? If there is someone who jumps out at you, take that person out for coffee. Ask them out for coffee again and again and again. If you take a general interest in their work, chances are they will want to help you hone your skills.
In Dale Stephens’ book, Hacking Your Education, he explains how he found mentors after moving to San Francisco to begin the professional chapter of his life; “...I started by emailing people I admired and offering to buy them coffee. Many accepted, and for this purpose I specifically budgeted $150 per month to buy coffee for people I wanted to learn from. It’s the least I could do to compensate for their time.” Dale is now one of the most well connected young professionals in Silicon Valley. Remember, the key is not coffee. It’s taking a general interest in your mentor and the experience they’ve acquired over the years. Take notes and be attentive.
Here’s something that has never changed – the value of hustle. If you don’t hustle, you won’t get anywhere. You have to light a fire under your butt and not stop untill you’re way on the other side of the line you want to cross. Don’t take it easy until you get to where you want to be. If you push yourself to do things like develop new skills, network, and make sure you have a mentor who can guide you, you’ll increase your likelihood of success exponentially. Get your mentor to help you create goals that are relevant to your situation and what you are trying to achieve. Bounce ideas off of people in your newfound network. Do whatever it takes to get where you want to go.
Dropping out isn’t for everyone. Its a challenge; it marks a new level of personal responsibility. But if you do it right, you could end up leaps and bounds ahead of where you would have been if you stayed in college, unmotivated and just “getting by.” So take some time to think about it and be sure to reach out to the UnCollege staff with any questions.