How do you justify getting a degree in the age of social proof?
I’m not going to pretend to know the statistics nationally, but of the graduating class I came from, two people I’m aware of did the “right thing” and went to college to get degrees. One in sociology, one in psychology. Both of them are still working retail because there are no jobs requiring the degrees they have. It’s a little unsettling. But then, I wasn’t one of the two who got the degrees.
Instead, I worked. I intended to work until I found something worth going to school for – I still do, and the options are narrowing as my experience increases and my tastes settle – but now I’m wondering if it’s not possible to simply use the experience I have as a foothold to the career I’ll eventually retire from. It really makes me wonder how useful the post-secondary educational system is.
A part of this comes from my frustration with the education system itself. My father’s a teacher and has been for his entire adult life, nearly forty years I think. I’ve seen a number of the struggles he has with the system itself, the bureaucracy behind the scenes, and it makes me a little worried for the students who have to put up with the end results of this. I’m convinced it’s time for an overhaul, but I admit there’s little I could contribute to the doing of that.
Instead, I think it’s important that businesses begin to more adequately recognize when someone’s had better training in one direction or the other. In some instances, there is no substitute for a degree. Accountants, software designers – there are things you learn from concise, critical study that simply cannot be taught on the job. The degree, the certificate – these things still have merit, but their arena has to change, and employers need to recognize this.
Similarly, work experience provides a number of benefits degrees do not. Soft skills, prioritizing beyond the current assignment, forward thinking – the workplace has need of these abilities far more than the schools do, and for certain jobs – strategy, marketing, sales, perhaps even reaching as far as executive positions, given the right kinds of experience, it may be more effective to consider someone’s real life decisions and knowledge beyond the classroom will inevitably be more valuable.
I think one of the troubles with the acceptance of work experience and real-life CV-building experience might be the question of scale. There is a lot of standardization in schooling, if someone’s passed, they have proven their ability to keep up with accepted norms, and like any machine, business relies on standards and metrics. Life experience provides none of this clean-cut, rationed demarcation, which will likely prove the biggest frustration for recruiters trying to pull in the talented rather than the credentialed.
But at the end of the process, when the dust settles and the new workplace adjusts to new venues for education, the same will apply as does today: there is no clearcut benefit in pushing yourself or anyone else down an educational path they’ll waste, when they could be gaining other valuable learning simply by sitting up and living in a way that’s attentive to their needs and highest good.