I have a degree. It took me 3 years and £12,000 to get it. My girlfriend does not have a degree, she started working straight from college and when we first met, both aged 28, we were on a training course for the same job. It does make you wonder whether I made the right choice or whether I would have been as well to do something else after compulsory education had finished.
The problem is that you often get influenced by those around you. Everyone from my school went to university, it was just the expected course of action. My
brother went too. I dare say if I had decided not to my parents would have been
supportive, but I know that most of my peer group would have been taken aback by my deviation from the norm. Making huge decisions about your future at the age of 17 is a strange obligation which I have never really understood. Granted there is always one or two in your class who are destined to be doctors,
lawyers or politicians and have very obvious paths mapped out for them in their
DNA. For those like myself who knew nothing about what they wanted to do then, stumbled into courses like Tourism or Archaeology and fell out of University into jobs in finance and marketing, you have to ask whether the decision should have been delayed by a couple of years whilst we tried a couple of things out.
There is no doubt that University in the UK prepares you for a multitude of life’s challenges, not least the social skills you need to function in the adult world and the life skills you need when you leave home. In terms of setting you up for a fulfilling life with a rewarding career though? Maybe not. My degree gets me past a certain amount of obstacles when applying for a job. Does the candidate have a degree? Check. Into the next pile, if not then into the bin you go. However, beyond this does it really have any relevance unless you are applying for a particularly vocational role? The merit of real experience and initiative I think would hold much greater weight, together with speaking to the right people.
I have a real hatred of recruitment consultants as a path to gaining a new job. This is nothing against them personally as I understand why they do what they do, but the methods they have to employ makes the whole process so soul destroying for people seeking an opportunity to just speak to the actual decision maker and tell them why they would be the best person for the job.
Gary Vaynerchuk has talked extensively about personal branding and how this will be the resume of the future. I am inclined to agree, even though I have no real gravitas in recruiting terms. If I were a recruiter and I had a stack of CV’s to go through, but then received an email from an applicant which contained a link to their own blog, website or youtube account that showed me exactly what they are capable of and gave me real life examples of it, I don’t think I would even bother looking at the CV’s. If you get a chance to read Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk (even better grab the audiobook, Gary’s enthusiasm makes the content even more motivational!) then I would recommend it. Some parts will be relevant, some not so much but it will definitely make you think.
If there is anyone reading this who is at that early stage of decision making, or even if you are, like me, at a bit of a crossroads in your life and are looking to make career decisions that could include further education, think, really think about whether a degree course is going to be the best way to achieve what you want. If I knew then what I know now I would have chosen to spend a couple of years working to try to find something that I loved rather than spend three years doing a bit of work and a lot of drinking to come out the other end and do a job I could have done with three years experience behind me anyway.
There will be those who will be shouting me down saying that they would never have gotten their job at DB or Goldman Sachs without their degree from such and such a university, but the truth is the majority of people coming out of University right now don’t end up there, they end up doing a low level job for a small salary and paying their student loans back over years and years for the sake of 3/4 years of partying and eating pasta.
I suspect that if you can get hold of the curriculum for most courses and the reading lists too, then you could learn 80% of what you do whilst in tuition.
I would be interested to hear people’s thoughts on this. I think being in the position I am where I haven’t perhaps made the most of the opportunity I had it is easy for me to argue one side of this and there are bound to be thoughts from the other side of the coin. Let me know whether you feel university is still the holy grail for you?