Is Your Education Useless?

Back to SchoolMany freelancers have university degrees. Many freelancers don’t have to send their resumes to people anymore, so those degrees don’t see a lot of action, but they’re there, collecting dust on our walls.

If you have a degree, you probably spent a couple of years getting it. You put hours of effort and study into learning a certain subject inside and out. In many cases, it’s a subject that you loved, one you felt passionate about.

And then you graduated, spent some time in the real world and ended up working in a field that was wildly different from the one you’d studied. You probably can’t remember when you last put the knowledge you learned in university to work in your everyday business affairs. You’ve probably forgotten half of what you learned, too. After all, you don’t need it, right?


Is Your Degree Useless?

You might think your degree has absolutely nothing to do with your current job, or maybe you feel it’s not very helpful to your career or even the slightest bit useful. Even Taylor, a Men with Pens copywriter, doesn’t really think she gets much out of her college degree when she does her job.

And she has a degree in ENGLISH, for Pete’s sake.

You might have a degree in archaeology and now you write code for a living. You might have your degree in biology and now you knit fuzzy hats for babies. Or you got your degree in comparative religion and now you write a blog about snow sports.

I guarantee that if you think hard about it, you can find a way that your degree applies to your current career – and if you do think hard about it, I guarantee you’ll get a lot more out of your hard-won knowledge.

Your Knowledge is Never Useless

I studied psychology for years. Opening a practice of my own had been a lifelong dream of mine.

Of course, all the best-laid plans go astray, as they say. My life changed and I found myself following a different career path – several of them, in fact, before I became a copywriter and settled in quite happily.

It seemed like running a copywriting and design business and the science of psychology had nothing at all to do with each other. I didn’t pay attention to what I’d learned. I had a business to build. I had work to do. I was a writer.

In fact, it took me quite awhile to realize that the knowledge I had in me was something I used in my business every single day, without even thinking about it.

When you get right down to it, I’m in sales. I’m in marketing. I’m in the business of getting people to buy whatever you sell through great copy and eye-catching design. And in order to make that all happen, I have to understand how the human mind works.

I have to know why action verbs are more likely to convince people to buy than passive verbs. I have to know that people feel soothed by the color blue and that a darker shade of it also reassures them. I have to know why the color yellow is a better choice for this target audience but not that one. I have to know why writing in little paragraphs is easier on readers’ brains than big ones.

What lets me know all this? If you guessed psychology, you win a prize.

Your Degree Can Give You a Brand

You were interested in that subject you studied all those years ago for a reason. Maybe you decided you were more interested in something else along the way and changed your focus, or that you just weren’t very good at that subject after all. Whatever. You picked that subject at the time because it spoke to you somehow.

Go back and look at your notes from college or university. Look at the names of the classes you chose to take. Remember what you did in them. What you liked best about them. What you really rocked at in each of them. Figure out what interested you most about every single class you ever took.

That’s what you should be playing up. That’s what fascinated you when you were young and naïve and full of ambition. That’s what you loved before you became all jaded and worn down. If you want to be kick-ass in your business, whatever it is you do, look back in time.

When I looked back in time, I remembered how I fascinated was by how people’s minds work and why they thought the way they did. What made them think that? Which events shaped them? And how did they change and evolve to think in new ways?

That fascination is one of the reasons why I’m now so interested in sales and marketing. Good sales copy can make people happy, sad, worried, frustrated… anything you want. Ultimately, good sales copy is all about convincing some complete stranger’s brain that whatever you’re selling is a great idea. It will change that person’s life.

Our archaeology degree-toting friend knows how society thinks, and he can code programs that take full advantage of the fact that we tend to be attracted to objects or shapes that hit our brains in just the right way. Our biology degree-toting friend knows exactly how bodies lose heat from the tops of our heads and can knit hats that make you even warmer than the next guy’s without making you sweat because of that knowledge.

Even Taylor, with her useless English degree, can tell us how sales copy appears even in literature to convince readers that the storyline is powerful and valid and real, and therefore of great importance to the reader.

You spent ages getting your degree. Isn’t it about time your business got some use out of it?

Think about it. How can your degree help you be better at what you do now?

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.