I’ve had the opportunity to meet dozens of young people who’ve created a successful life for themselves outside of the traditional college career path. They come from different backgrounds, with different skills and experiences, different goals and interests, but they all share an uncanny ability to set themselves apart from their peers.
Here are four ways they’ve been able to accomplish this.
ABC (Always Be Creating)
Start building things as soon as you can. Start a blog, give yourself some other creative projects to work on, take on some freelance work.
One of the unfortunate things about college is it largely separates the learning process from the productive process. The best thing you can do to learn, and to set yourself apart from the rest of your peers, is to focus your learning around a series of monthly deliverable projects you can put out into the world and get real feedback on. This has been the most valuable thing I’ve done since leaving school.
If you can, create something you can sell. It’s one thing to get an A on a test or have someone praise you for this or that. It’s another to have someone be willing to pay you in exchange for something you’ve made. The first sale I made was the most valuable and most fulfilling experience I’d had up to that point.
Establish yourself as an expert in something.
It’s not that hard.
The difference between expert and non-expert is a couple of blog posts written, a few books read, a Facebook status or two, and maybe a talk delivered. That’s it. You’ll be ahead of 99% of other people if you can do that.
Find something you’re interested in and make yourself known for it. (Answering Quora questions is a great way to do this.)
Stop asking for permission.
You might’ve been taught your entire life you need to ask permission from an authority figure–you need to have this or that certification in order to do something.
But you’ve been lied to.
If you want to build a business, write a book, land a big client, and you feel under-qualified, go for it anyways.
Because the big secret–the thing you’ll realize once you get out into the real world–is most people are even less-qualified than you are.
Be creative about finding employment opportunities.
I’ve gotten clients before by working for free—it’s one of the luxuries we have, being debtless.
To learn more about working for free, read this: 5 Tips to Get a Job Without a Formal Credential. Then read If You Want to Get the Job, You Don’t Need a Resume — You Need a Value Proposition.