Education: It’s not as important as everyone thinks

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When it comes to post-secondary education, you may want to entertain a new school of thought. 

If you’re at the point where you’re contemplating taking the advanced education route, you need to step back and a serious look at your career/lifestyle goals and determine if this education will add any value to your equation in the future. 

I wrote a blog in 2013 comparing two forms of education I received: a master’s degree in innovation and entrepreneurship at the Antwerp Management School in Belgium and  mentorship experiences through Accelerate Okanagan’s Venture Acceleration Program. My experience being mentored has contributed significantly more to my understanding of the business world, how to grow my company and how to operate in today's ever changing landscape than my formal education.

It’s an interesting time to initiate a conversation on the value or reasoning behind getting an education in today's new digital economy. Just last year, companies like IBM, Google, Microsoft, announced that formalized education was no longer mandatory to obtain employment at their organizations. Why? Because it doesn’t matter, and in many cases the cost and time spent receiving an education can be a hindrance to your long game. 

Have you ever heard of the saying: "what have you done for me lately?" That’s what today's work environment is about: how quick can you learn, adjust and capitalize on the ever-changing opportunities. This is exactly what every company is faced with day in and day out. You need to be nimble, you need to be innovative and you need to move quickly. Naturally, every company needs their teams to do the same. To me, the most valuable members of any team today can react quickly, learn and execute their new responsibilities and are not tied to their role, title, or ego. Yes, I said it… EGO.

The biggest issue I have seen over my past five years of interviewing young graduates is their view of themselves in the world today. Let me preface by saying that we have been so fortunate, but also had to work so hard to find fantastic young graduates and non graduates that understand that the learning has just begun and their future is based on their contribution and results, NOT their management degree or the big university they attended; it doesn’t matter and in many cases it hurts your career based on your new outlook (post graduation). 

HOW COULD UNIVERSITY HURT SOMEONES CAREER ?

It all comes down to three key factors: DEBT, TIME, and EGO

DEBT

The average student in Canada carries $26,000 in debt from their university degree and graduates at the age of 26. So, the average university graduate starts their earning career four-plus years later than their peers and soon has a payment larger than driving a Mercedes when they are just getting started.

When you’re a young professional, I believe it’s important for you to find early roles that challenge you and work for organizations you can grow within and have visions you are passionate about. If you have student debt, you will be forced to take a role for 10- to 25-per-cent more pay with minimal growth and upside, not to mention lots of structured corporate training, which will feel just like university. Welcome to a job at a bank, traditional (dying) company or a huge multinational organization, which is set up and excited to put you into the puppy mill… I mean management program over the next three-to-four years.

It’s not the future I’d pick, but hey, different strokes, different folks. 

TIME

Post-secondary students have spent the last four years “working hard”, attending classes five-to-six hours a day, doing homework at their leisure and planning their career as a manager.  None of these courses or projects will actually apply to the real world. 

Once you have a degree, you now feel that you should start down the path you planned out: buy a house, drive a nicer car, maybe get a dog. Consequently, you start to load yourself up on expenses like mortgages, car payments and fancy dog treats because your work is done; you’re educated and the system is supposed to take care of you. What does this mean? You are now tied to the lifestyle you are trying to catch up to, which results in you chasing jobs or careers that pay, not careers you’re passionate about or roles you will develop in: short-term gain for a career of long-term pain.

When I launched GetintheLoop, I rented with roommates for years, drove a ‘98 Honda and used to brag about owning one thing: my computer. The results of this program? I was in control, I had flexibility and I could develop without being tied to payments and my “plan”. 

EGO

I went to school in the U.S. for my undergrad degree and attended an international master's program in Europe, and along the way I’ve had the opportunity to work with graduates from some of the most prestigious universities around. Let me cut to the chase: my education felt great, but when rubber hit the road it had taught me nothing other than the ability to learn.

Saying I had a Master's in business was like saying I was a CEO at a bank because I had a debit card in my wallet. I knew nothing about the business world. I have continually noticed that the brightest contributors have received no postsecondary education, while on the flipside I’ve met or worked with many highly educated individuals that didn’t exactly blow my socks off to say the least. 

Your school, your double major, or the extra project you did does not define you; it's what you do post grad. 

I have had students ask about our personal day policy, or how we support their travel ambitions, or how we plan to approach work-life balance. Easy answer: anyone who wants to vacation more than getting paid or is worried about our personal day policy should join another company.  Balance is finding something you are passionate about and doing it lots! Now, not all students have this same ego and these are the golden nuggets in the Gen Y workforce. We have 12 Gen Yers on our team and, if you can, you should try and get them on your team. People like this are sooo hard to find and are gold to a young, ever-evolving business. We couldn’t be luckier to have them, but they are few and far between. 

IN THE END, EXPERIENCE WILL ALWAYS TRUMP EDUCATION

For entrepreneurs looking to hire, from my experience I can tell you that education has little impact on contribution, so don’t overlook resumes or individuals based on their education. 

For anyone hoping to become an entrepreneur, know that you are only 10 per cent behind, and by working twice as hard for a month you will be caught up to all your college graduate friends. Take the leap, learn by way of doing. It’s simple math: the more time you put in, the more you will get out. 

For students, be one of those golden nuggets that wants to contribute, do the little things right, clean the floors, stay late, get in early and know you’re only as promising as the value you add each day.  

Love The Grind – Matty