I didn’t finish high school with a mark that allowed me to go to TAFE, let alone go to university. I have no piece of paper that says I have attained a certain level of education. Some people get quite hung up on this because society, for the most part, dictates that in order to succeed we must stay in school to Year 12, go on to higher education maybe even do post-graduate study.
I’ve met a lot of well-educated people who are captains of industry and doyens of society but I’ve known other extremely intelligent people with more initials after their name than the number of pubs in the Sydney CBD (it’s 164 by the way but I’ll come back to that!) but who are in low paying, uninspiring jobs and struggle to engage with colleagues and clients.
In turn, some of the most inspiring and clever people I’ve ever worked with or worked for have been self-starters with little or no formal qualifications. They often had an excellent mentor and also benefited from being “in the right place at the right time” but their common sense, good judgement and positive outlook was critical to ensuring their success.
I’m a firm believer that a wide (and preferably deep) general knowledge is just as crucial to an individual’s ability to interact and to contribute in the workplace. It’s also said that nothing beats experience so it can often be an advantage if someone has been exposed to numerous industries, business models and systems as opposed to spending time in a lecture theatre. It never ceases to amaze me how a solution to one problem can be found by drawing on experience gained in a previous role.
Regardless of the project or the industry, passion, creativity and gumption are always at the core of good results.
I’m not advocating for more lovable rogues and high school drop-outs in business (Richard Branson has cornered that market!) but I am saying that a person’s CV often does not give a true indication of their potential worth to your business. Their resume may appear light on but their life experience and knowledge base is extremely rich.
The manner in which we access and process learning material these days is completely different to even 20 years ago. Youtube and Wikipedia have changed everything! We source, share and retain information more readily. Younger people especially appreciate bite-sized learning. They thrive on gamification and choose-your-own options.
And, in the main, on the job learning is also more detailed and more disciplined. Those who join the workforce at a younger age and in a more junior role are often much more ‘street smart’ than someone who joins from university.
So, when it comes to mapping out the number of pubs within the Sydney City Council boundary, two individuals working in the same industry may come at it from completely different angle.
While learning their entry level role of warehouse assistant at a brewery, a willing subject will be exposed to all aspects of the logistics and business operations including spending some time on the brewery floor and significant time in the delivery truck.
Using techniques and tools identified while studying, a recent university graduate working as a Project Manager specialising in the hospitality sector will certainly have the skill-set to find documentation that confirms the number of hotels in the city.
The university graduate uses research techniques and collaborative skills whilst the warehouse assistant has personally visited almost every single one of them. Same result, different path.
Those with an MBA or a degree from a ‘Group of 8’ University (look it up, it’s a thing) might consider a start in the ‘mail room’ as wasted time, but I’ve always believed there is as much merit in both.
Further, I think the way we record and assess this type of non-linear learning is extremely important. Unfortunately, it’s something that the business world has typically taken a very lax approach to and one which I’m actively working to change!