The DIY Guide to Degrees, Networking, and Jobs (Part 1)

April 8, 2013 | 7 comments

The Secret That Colleges Don’t Want You Knowing About

Many people ask me “Isabelle, what is an autodidact?” and “Where did you learn all this stuff?”  I am going to give away my secret today because I am tired of having to redirect people into something that is right under their nose.

Every neighborhood has one.

Your local community college  or university has one.

It’s free, and if it costs money it is virtually inexpensive.

Arthur the Aardvark has a music video that I loved when I was little singing all about it.

That’s right! It’s your local library!


My DIY Degree Journey

The library, NPR, Networking, Conferences, and Volunteering. What do all of these have in common? They were all resources that I used to getting where I am today – and still journeying on. It was because of the library that I discovered UnCollege and  alternative education. It was because of NPR that I decided to get my TESOL Certificate and teach English in China. It was because of networking online and off that I decided to make a documentary about my journey into self-education and the world of being an autodidact.


There are so many options for students after high school and in college to go about getting a real world education and experience without (or with minimum) student loan debt.

According to Hacking Your Education by Dale Stephens, 80% of jobs are unlisted. You know how they get filled? Your network and your skills.

What can you contribute to a project? What are you passionate about? What have you accomplished? Why would I want to hire you? Or more accurately today, why would I want to collaborate with you?



Networking (out of your comfort zone)

What is this magical word? It’s apparently something that really successful people do. I discovered this by reading Michael Ellsberg’s The Education of Millionaires. Look at people you admire, maybe you’re an aspiring film director and want to be the next Spielberg, or better (le gasp). Read up about how he got to where he is today. Who did he talk to? What agencies was he a part of? Make a list of resources or people in the industry you are interested in and send them an e-mail stating you are a student and would love to do an interview since you are interested in the industry.

Networking is a contributive effort. You do not just ask, “Hey, I need a job, how do I get one?” It’s about what you can contribute to the other person. Authentically. If I learned anything from my wonderful time doing the Landmark Education course in Chicago – authenticity is so important. You admire this person, you are naturally curious, so set up the scene. Ask if they would like to do an interview at a specific time, for 30 minutes – this person is busy after all. Be to the point, let them know why you would like to interview them in particular.

Creating a Portfolio of Your Awesomeness

As soon as I found out that I was going to be more of an Edupunk than a regular student going to a 4 year university, I decided there has got to be a better way to showcase what I have learned. So I started vlogging on Youtube and then focused my blogspot blog on my learning. I graduated from blogspot to wordpress after reading a book from, you guessed it, the library – on setting up wordpress blogs. A year after that I had the talented nerdfighter Ashley Farrand help design The BellaVie Blog as you see it today. All beautiful and colorful.

Starting a blog is a wonderful way to practice your writing, create a media platform, network, and showcase your talents and projects. I used Micah’s Guide to Creating a Personal Website to create my standalone web page so that if people want to know more about me, my projects, and keep it as an online portfolio I can do that. If you need help setting up a site, or have a question about what should be on your portfolio – no worries! I got your back, e-mail me and I will help you out. DIY is yourself, but learning involves a variety of resources. The DIY part is the curiosity and drive you already have to make your voice and awesomeness shine.

  • Luz Garcia-Pennock

    This is brilliant and practical! I will share it with my networks, family and friends.

    • Isabelle Rizo

      Thanks Luz, glad you enjoyed it!

  • Shai Atwood Ford

    I LOVE this! I’m almost done with my degree, but I’ve discovered that I could have done 99% of what I am doing now without it (and the debt that comes along with it).

    …now, I know. lol.

    • Isabelle Rizo

      Pass on your knowledge :) You’re almost done with your degree though which is fantastic.

  • Wren

    I loved this! Especially the part about networking. I am starting a business soon and networking, or even reaching out and talking to people I already know about my new venture, was what I feared most. A mentor told me to contact people already doing what I want to do and see if they would be willing to chat. I was SURE they wouldn’t. But 2 out of the 3 were! I am going to follow your advice and try to reach out to people I admire more!

    • Isabelle Rizo

      Fantastic Wren. I was surprised by just reaching out to talk to mentors and cool people. But they WANT to help. :)

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