I'm a Career Success Story — And I Didn't Go to College

Can You Be Successful If You Don't Go to College?

We make assumptions about how successful women get to where they are—one of them involves a 4-year college education. But we also know that launching a career sometimes means breaking the rules.

College dictates our future success. A great education is essential to growing personally and professionally. It’s the foundation for growing a business. In this era, it’s the only way forward. Right? I'm living proof that that myth is wrong. I only have a high school diploma. I’m proud to say it. And while I worked harder than most to get to where I am, I wouldn't change it.

While everyone else applied to colleges, I started as an entry-level receptionist, rose through the ranks quickly, and became a business owner by age 25. Yes, that's less than 7 years from graduating high school.

My company was recently acknowledged by Inc Magazine as one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. I’ve been featured in Forbes, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Wall Street Journal, and many others. How's that for success without a degree?

Here’s the best advice I can give to you (college graduate or not) about growing personally and professionally regardless of what you studied (or didn’t). Because that liberal arts degree may not get you far, but you can certainly get yourself places.

1. OUTWORK EVERYONE

I mean everyone. It will most likely require more than 40 hours a week for stretches of time, but your hard work and long hours will show your dedication. Working more than the bare necessity also puts you on the fast track to becoming an expert in your chosen field.

I only have a high school diploma. I’m proud to say it.

Bosses see a willingness to work until the work is done, and not just until the workday is over, as true evidence that you have the right stuff to take on more responsibility, and they will often trust you with more important work. Putting in the time from the beginning sets you up to start moving up that ladder.

Nothing beats hard work!

2. NETWORK TILL YOU DON'T HAVE TO INTRODUCE YOURSELF

Connect with people both within and outside of your field: you never know what could be hidden within those connections. It's not just about being recognized, it's about being recognized for your work, and the reputation that builds up around your work, your attitude, and your network. Never stop growing your network. 

It can help, too, to become a super-connector. Don't just collect connections—connect your connections. {click to tweet} Everyone has unique skills and experiences, and leveraging your networks to help them connect, learn, and grow is a powerful way to make your networking count. Bonus: that road goes both ways. People in your network will think of you in situations where your specialties would be useful.

3. NEVER STOP LEARNING

Keep getting better at what you do, and keep expanding what you do by continuing to learn. You'll hone the skills you have and learn new skills. Learning new things also helps to keep your brain flexible, which is essential to problem-solving and process improvement. Read books and articles, watch videos online, take hands-on classes, or virtual ones. Bottom line: keep learning new things.

4. TAKE ON TASKS THAT FALL OUTSIDE YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION

One of the fastest ways up the ranks is to show you are capable of doing more. Start asking for more tasks in the position you want. Make sure your current tasks are complete, and that your work is high quality. If you can prove over time that you are willing and capable of doing more than what your current position asks of you, you'll rise to the next position, and the next, because you keep proving that you can (and that you want to!). 

Instead of sitting in front of the television for a couple of hours, read an article or watch a video demonstration. 

5. MAXIMIZE TIME

Skip the TV watching and replace with learning, growing, and visualizing. Spending your time wisely is one of the best things you can do for yourself. This doesn't mean you should become a learning machine—you still need balance. Instead of sitting in front of the television for a couple of hours, read an article or watch a video demonstration. {click to tweet} Get creative through artistic or musical pursuits. 

If you don't have a degree, know that you need to start somewhere. Take an entry level position, conquer it, and make strides towards your next benchmark. Remember, you may need to work harder than everyone to prove yourself, but trust me when I say, time well spent will always pay off.

What's your biggest challenge in landing the job you want right now? Tell us below.