I’ve been coaching this kid who is in college. I like him so much, so I agreed (for a fee, of course) to coach him for junior and senior year to make sure he gets a great job after college. The experience has been eye-opening.

I have done this in the past — it’s actually really easy for me to get kids in their 20s the jobs they want. It’s sort of a resume game. You figure out the job you want, then you figure out how to get the resume you need to get the job you want. Then you get that resume. People think you need permission or something in order to write something on your resume. But you don’t. Just do the job for someone and then put it on the resume.

Commenter alert: This is not lying. Lying is if you don’t do the job. That said, you can do a really bad job of doing a job and still put it in the resume. Like you can write an ad campaign for a startup and track the results of the ad. And you can put that on  your resume. And you can say you did it while you were working at a PR firm that is just you.

Developers have been doing this forever. They write code. And do something cool with the code and then send it to someone who can hire them. Designers do it too: “Here’s a redesign of your website. I’d be great at your company.” I used to get those a lot, when my site was smaller. Now designers know that my site is a mess to redesign and I would never have the budget to do it the way they’d want.

So, anyway. What I’m realizing with this kid is he has no idea what he wants to do. (No surprise there.) But he actually doesn’t even know how to choose how he spends his time. He talks about time management like he’s at a craps table letting the dice decide what comes next. I usually have patience for this talk because it’s how 90% of college kids sound.

But then we started the Big Talk about summer internships. And the conversation turned into something like this.

“I’d feel more secure if I had a summer internship.”


“Because then I’d know what I’m doing.”

“But the whole reason you don’t like school is because they are always telling you what to do.”

“Yeah. That’s true.”

“So why do you want some internship telling you what to do. Don’t worry about your resume. Your resume will say Summer 2017. So you can work one day in summer 2017 or 90 days in summer 2017. The resume won’t show that. So you don’t need an internship. You need someone to write a resume. And you have me. So you need to learn how to manage your time. You have every day in the summer open. What do you want to do.”

“I want someone to tell me what to do.”

“That’s lame, right? You know that?”

“Yeah. I know that.”

See? That’s why I like him. Because at least he admits that after eighteen years of being told what to do every day in school, he can’t face not being told what to do in the summer.

We are dealing with that. Trying to get comfortable with the idea that you have to decide what to do with your days when you’re an adult. But meanwhile, I’m thinking, what should college kids do who are not used to managing their own time?

First I was thinking they shouldn’t go to college. They need to learn to figure out what they want to do with their time. But as a homeschooler I see how hard it is for parents and kids to do that when the kids are six years old. So how can parents and kids start doing it when the kids are 18? It’s so hard.

I am thinking now that if kids have to go to college, they should do something besides just show up for class. There are great opportunities to learn vocational skills outside of college, like building a startup, learning to write code, even making money from your art. Or you can make college an adventure — go abroad for school and then you don’t feel like you have to do that when you graduate.

I guess what I’m saying is that college is going to have to be more than just college. Because that’s not enough to prepare a kid to go get a job. Lucky kids get to have a career coach follow them through college. Lucky kids get to go to an exciting new country for four years of college. But kids don’t need luck to have a great four years at college. They need to have the pluck to force themselves to treat college as a time to explore different jobs, without the repercussions of having to earn (or not earn) a living.

School is a time for self-discovery — but you don’t need to discover what you want to learn. You have been learning your whole life, and there’s nothing stopping you from learning the rest of your life. Use school as a time to learn what you want to do for a job, not by reading about it but doing it. Don’t wait for after school to travel, don’t wait for after school to get a job.

College is not a waiting area. Start living your real life the day you get there.