Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

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Some routes besides college lead to success

Do you really have to go to college to be a success? Surprisingly, Amanda Krauss, former professor at Vanderbilt University and editor of  suggests that you don't.

At a time when jobs-and money for college-both are scarce, young people may have other options.
"The real question is whether four years of college is the best way to prepare a young person for a job," says Krauss.  "It's too risky right now to take on a mountain of debt if you aren¹t guaranteed employment for your efforts.  I think it's finally time we start considering and openly discussing some college alternatives, and letting high school graduates know there are other, productive steps they can take right now toward a career." 
Krauss lists five practical job path alternatives below.

1.    Take classes without going for the degree.
Truth be told, most successful people have some college under their belt, and many of them dropped out because they were tired of taking required classes that didn't matter to them. So why not start from the premise that you can take individual classes? That way, it's less about requirements and more about learning. Also, if you¹re not bound to pay for classes you don't want, there's more room to take classes for personal fulfillment as well as career advancement.  Between community colleges and online instruction, I think the options for à la carte learning will only increase in the next decade, and see no reason why students shouldn't take advantage.
2.    Spend your money on professional development, not a piece of paper.
Professional development is just another form of learning, and it's different in every industry. I had prepared for my transition by taking non-degree online classes, but it took me by surprise when interviewers asked about my professional memberships (which simply never happened in academia, my former field). Soon enough I caught on, and when preparing for an interview I had a mental list of organizations, favorite debugging tools, and inspirational designers at the ready. I also made sure my resume displayed this information, as well as my attendance at SXSW and other professional events.
There's something to be said for targeted forms of education, especially if you already know which career you¹re interested in. Think of money spent on memberships, conferences, and equipment as an investment, just as you would if you were spending it on more formal certification.
3.    Put together a portfolio.
All too often, a college degree translates into a mere list of classes, which is why there's an increasing interest in having graduates put together "portfolios." But you don't need a college education to have a portfolio.  You can easily link your resume to your Tumblr blog, website, or Flickr account. And frankly, this is another argument for not resting your laurels on too many generic "Business Technology Communication Theory in the Twenty-First Century" classes. Personally, I'd be far more interested in hiring someone who shows me the website they made for a class on nineteenth-century Parisian poets.
In the end, it's about finding a way to make your accomplishments, not just your credentials, visible to potential employers.
4.    Think in terms of motivation.
Students often expect college to make them "successful" but they rarely think about what that actually means; in my experience their unstated expectation is that college will provide them with motivation they don't currently have. Take it from me: Even the best teacher simply cannot give you enough motivation to last a lifetime.
You need find what drives you  and if takes some time, that's okay. It's also okay if what drives you is finding a decentpaying job that you don't hate. You may find your vocation later, because motivations change throughout life. Bottom line: don't wait around for an epiphany to strike or ask other people to give you motivation. Go out and find it yourself.
5.    Tweet your way to a job.
I know this one sounds precious, but I actually have a co-worker who did it. He's a totally self-taught developer and wanted to learn more about SEO. He started Tweeting with the #SEO hashtag, which got the attention of the office SEO guy, and eventually we hired him. Granted, my co-worker is a tremendously social guy, and that helps  but really, emotional IQ is yet another arena of learning that doesn't grant anyone a degree. Social media has actually made networking easier for those who are not social butterflies. As I always tell people: even with the best credentials in the world, you won¹t get anywhere if you can't deal with other people.


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