“I am going to be an influencer.” So said Jillian, a student from Old Lyme Connecticut who attends Lyme-Old Lyme High School.
Since I provide college-career counseling in the new world of work, I did not scoff at Jillian. Instagram influencers exist. Some Instagram influencers earn their living as influencers. Some earn a bit of money as a side business.
But most do not. Indeed, the majority spend endless amounts of time that would be better spent elsewhere on attempting to become influencers.
I am often the first person who discusses money in the context of salaries, career paths, and college majors with 17 year old college counseling clients in Shoreline, CT. Or maybe I’m the first person that many of these students listen to but, regardless, it is always surprising to me when a student-client expresses that they never really knew that… for example…. forensic science workers for the state do not make a lot of money.
Many affluent parents – such as those in Shoreline, CT – were cultured in the Dead Poet’s Society ethos where we were scarred by the horrible movie Dad who pressured his son to give up acting. I get it! I don’t want to burst the bubble of either my children or anyone else’s children.
I am a perpetual optimist. But I am also a realistic one. I have no problem telling an aspiring filmmakers or Instagram influencers that they should pursue their passions. But I also add that they should spend their summers immersed in studying their craft, learning how to edit films/understand online marketing algorithms, understand the nuances and subtleties of camera angles and lighting, and create several short films or hundreds of Instagram posts. I tell such students about the 10,000 hour goal (mastery comes after many hours!) and that they need to curtail their socializing, video-game playing, social media viewing, endless texting etc. to get in those hours. And, I tell them that there is no certainty that they will be successful. Some move forward. Many don’t.
When I hear a student suggest a career path that does not comport with a realistic understanding of how the world works, I treat them like adults. I tell them the facts. I don’t tell them whether they should choose a different college major, just that they should know there are a lot of unemployed film majors… and instagram influencer wannabes.
I would like to think that I have saved many parents some hard battles with their children when I go through this exercise!