As told to Microsoft's Matt Mottola for his upcoming book:
Path to Your Dream Career
Every time I’m at a university, the inevitable question pops up:
“Is my college degree even worth it?”
My answer is “If you’re a senior, then probably not. If you’re a freshman, you still have time.”
Let me be clear, I LOVE universities. They brought us unparalleled levels of prosperity, uplifting entire generations from the farm to the factory to the office.
But in the current state, it’s no secret that they don’t work. How could they? The “close your eyes, throw a dart at the major board, and 4 years, $200k in debt later, you’ll either be underemployed or choose a career you’ll switch from after a year” is a relic of a former assembly line driven time.
What if rather than the above, students did freelance projects – “micro-internships” – in conjunction with the curriculum. Projects could last a couple hours, a couple days, or a couple weeks. With each project, students learn the roles, industries, and potentially the companies they’d want to work for.
“By providing ways for students to understand the crosswalks from the classroom to a career through project-based work, and for prospective employers to see these skills in action, we can address the challenges facing employers and Career Launchers alike.”
For example, Noel, a Dell Scholar, was the first in his family to attend college. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the network to fully appreciate all the career options available, and his GPA often caused him to be filtered out by prospective employers. Here’s his story in his own words:
“My first micro-internship was a sales outreach project. During this experience, my versatility and organizational skills grew, and I learned to balance life, academics, and real-world projects. My confidence grew as well, so I began to take on jobs that I would have never had the courage to tackle previously.
"I have now completed 14 different projects on Parker Dewey and counting. I have written lesson plans for the science curriculum of a charter school in California, completed sales research and lead-generation projects, and verified the translation of a manual in Spanish. I have worked with people all over the world from India to Mexico to Chicago. Each project has given me indispensable knowledge about myself and the real world that I otherwise would have never attained. It has been a lot of hard work where I have put in countless hours, but it has given me a new level of confidence in my abilities as a professional.
"I went from not being able to attain a single opportunity, let alone an interview, to having over 10 interviews and a handful of full-time job offers. I used this newly acquired confidence to land a full-time position when I graduate from Texas A&M University this upcoming May 2019 with my Bachelors of Science in Chemical Engineering. This was all in one year. One year! It is insane for me to think how much my life changed with the right opportunity. I never would have imagined all this being possible. For me, the college-to-career transition had been one of the most difficult challenges in my life, but thanks to such a unique idea and well-designed platform, I was able to not only grow as a person but also as a professional.”
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t welled up from a Nicholas Sparks movie.
But nothing compares to these words from Noel:
“Through these micro-internships, I was able to get in the door and show employers that I had the grit, skills, and ambition.”
The reason is that I can relate to Noel. While I was a student, I felt overwhelming pressure to succeed. I needed to get good grades, get the perfect internship, yet opportunity seemed light years away for us non-Ivy Leaguers. I will never forget applying for consulting internships. Most portal’s asked where you went to school, and if there was a drop down menu my state school was never on it.
But freelance didn’t ask what school I went to. It asked what value I could add. And with each project, my value increased exponentially. To the point that I started taking on challenges I never would have imagined pre-freelance.
Like Noel, freelance was my force for good in fighting for opportunity.
Freelance provides students with a crosswalk from classroom to career by exposing them to various skills, industries, and companies, all while democratizing access to opportunities once reserved for only “elite” degrees.