A list of famous college dropouts would be a long list. Some of the best and brightest in the business, technology, and entertainment worlds have succeeded through hard work and all the right connections.
Bill Gates, for example, dropped out of Harvard University, and his Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dropped out of Washington State University.
President George W. Bush did graduate from Harvard, but his former adviser, Carl Rove, left the University of Utah after two years.
For that matter, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Kanye West called it quits after a few months at Howard University.
For those who are truly innovative or driven, a college degree may not be necessary to achieve fame or fortune.
So is socializing more important than studying? Everyone has heard that it’s “not what you know, but who know” or that seven out of every 10 jobs are landed through networking.
But don’t get too excited.
Recent studies show that college graduates, on average, earn almost double what those with only a high school diploma earn, so it’s still smart to get that degree.
Michael Luger, a 2003 Florida A&M University School of Business and Industry graduate said, “I thought about dropping out because I felt like so many opportunities within the industry were passing me by because I had to study this, or case study that.”
Luger, an up and coming entertainment executive said, “I had a friend who was lured by the cash and the parties. Initially, I was jealous of him because he would call and brag about what he was doing and I was grinding it out in SBI.”
Unfortunately, Luger’s friend was fired a year later and was stuck paying back his student loans. In the end Luger said the degree along with the internships helped his career and he was glad he decided to stay in school.
“I think it depends on the individual in regards to staying in school versus pursuing your dreams,” he said. “For me, I was able to pursue my dreams after getting my degree.”
Unfortunately, too many college students think that once they graduate they’re set.
Writing a senior thesis, graduating with honors, and getting a 3.8 grade point average seems to be the benchmark for students.
What more could be needed? Besides, all it takes is a good resume, right? Post it on careerbuilder.com, monster.com, apply to some jobs on Craigslist, and $75,000 should be an annual salary in no time.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Because both halves of the saying are true, landing a good job after college is as much about whom you know as what you know. Networking is the key, and that means more than just putting a resume out there or making a couple phone calls and waiting around for the job offers to pour in.
Luckily, college is one of the best places to network.
FAMU’s Office of Alumni Affairs and Student Affairs, like many colleges and universities, already have partnerships in place with local business and corporations looking to hire the best and brightest.
Everyone that students meet in their four or five years of college is a potential business contact, which is why campus involvement is so important.
Internships, volunteering, student groups, on-campus jobs, and membership in fraternities/sororities not only show potential employers that their potential employee is motivated and capable of successfully juggling various responsibilities (academic and extracurricular), but also offer a wealth of opportunities for networking.
Fraternities and sororities in particular offer a good place to toss around some ideas and help you get started with a business venture. As Nichole Tores from Entrepreneur Magazine writes, it’s like “having a pre-made focus group that can judge your ideas… a good entrepreneurial petri dish.”
When students start considering job options or promoting business ventures, keep in mind the following tips: clearly define goals and strategies; know the network and keep in touch with those who could prove most helpful; ask about additional people who could help move projects or careers forward; and think about the questions that other people may ask about personal and professional matters.
Most importantly, remember that professional networking is different from social networking.
Meeting someone for a business meeting is not the same as talking to someone on Facebook or MySpace.
As Priscilla March for boston.com writes, “Every professional networking contact, electronic or face-to-face, needs to be carefully crafted, planned, or practiced. One misspelled word, one uncapitalized pronoun, one lapse of over-familiarity or unprofessionalism, and your best chance of making a positive impression may have been wasted.”