That Time I Learned My Expensive College Degree Wasn’t The Path To Career Happiness


By Joyce Akiko

Six months into my expensive new degree, I knew: I had made a terrible mistake.

With one and a half years left to go, I had a tough decision to make. Should I keep going? Should I cut my losses and move on?

I deliberated for a few days (who am I kidding? It took months) and ultimately decided not to quit. I struggled for the remaining year or so, typing up papers, memorizing information and passing tests.

After graduation, I was ready for the “real world”. Armed with my diploma, I descended upon the job openings online.

Looking back now, I don’t even remember how many applications I filled out or how many times I emailed my resume… all I remember is the growing frustration, the creeping anxiety and mounting stress as the time slid by and I remained jobless.

When I finally got my first job, I was ecstatic. A real job! With 9-5 hours! I kissed my retail jobs goodbye (figuratively) and stocked my wardrobe with new, professional clothes.

Sure, the job paid half what I thought I’d get after accruing a ton of student loans. And yeah, okay, maybe it was the one of the least respected positions at the company. So what?! I had my first real job!


Enter cold, hard reality.

The excitement wore off pretty quickly.

I’d quickly learn how to do my tasks, and then I’d learn how to excel at my tasks. After that, I couldn’t shake the feeling of “what’s next?” — I was always ready for more responsibility, greater challenges, new things to learn.

It didn’t take long to notice that I was feeling the same way I had felt in grad school: listless, frustrated, unfulfilled and bored.

Was this how the rest of my life was going to be?

When I complained to my friends, they didn’t understand. “You should be lucky you have a job!”, they said.

To make matters worse, I realized that it wasn’t just the job that I was unhappy with. It was the field as well. I had chosen it because of my degree, and after gaining some real world experience, I knew it just wasn’t for me.

It Was Time To Change Things Up

The wonderful thing about a job, even a job you don’t want anymore, is that it only takes up a certain number of hours per day.

There’s a lot of time left over if you choose to use it wisely.

I chose to use it wisely.

I decided that I was going to break out of this field and carve my own path.


A long journey of purposeful, self-guided learning began, quickly taking over my evenings and weekends. I consumed books, devoured webinars, and absorbed online talks. My networking skills began to develop and I started connecting with influencers. I inhaled their advice. Every networking event mentioned in a local new blog was attended. Volunteering happened. Lots and lots of volunteering.

I learned as much as I could, as fast as I could.

It was an amazing process of discovery, breakthroughs, and self-evolution.

Throughout the process I noticed more and more how self-guided learning was really fun. It was a completely different experience than attending college and grad school! Instead of moving at everyone else’s pace, I was able to move on my own. I was also able to completely customize my own learning based on my interests, not someone else’s curriculum.

The Results: I Landed An Amazing Job That I Really Enjoy

Less than 4 years since embarking on my journey, I have a job that I really enjoy. My level of autonomy is extremely high; my manager recognized my go-getter attitude right away and knew I could handle as much responsibility as I could get. I work with amazing people and am constantly growing.

When I look back on my formal educational experiences, I don’t regret them. I learned plenty of useful skills. But because I took charge of my own knowledge, I am thrilled to say that my confidence has never been higher and my satisfaction and happiness have never been more complete!



Joyce Akiko is committed to helping 20- and 30-somethings realize that it’s OK to go the nontraditional, non-linear career route. In this beautiful, amazing digital age, it IS possible to forge a new career path based on true interests and self-learned skills rather than our degrees (degrees that we got before we really knew what we wanted to do with our life).

You can get Joyce’s free guide “How To Get A Job Doing What You Really Want To Do“. It’s full of tips on how to get from the job you have now to the job that you really want.


  1. I read something very similar on the popular blog, The Indie Chicks. We need to remember that although a college degree is important, making sure that you’re happy with your career choices is even better!

  2. Only 10% of those who have just graduated from college find work in the first 2 months. These data I received when I wrote a study for on “Unemployment among students: Causes and Consequences.” A lot of the stereotypes created in the minds of former students during their studies at the college which can lead to depression and various disorders.

  3. Excellent advice. How about a little checklist on the subject of personal branding? It would be very convenient.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.