Saturday, October 15, 2011

Degrees and Education

Not too long ago I wrote about choosing the size of events in my life. As of yet I can't seen anything wrong with the idea, except that it is harder to do than to write. Much harder. Things at work started to worry me and I let them intrude for a while. This was happening right while I'm reading Dale Carnegie's "How to quit worrying and start living". Talk about time to put the material to work! I chose to reduce the size of those events in my life and made some mental plans if things did get out of hand.

And that tidbit is the difference between getting a degree and getting an education. Important information is not just what you know but what you can use to make things better.  When you look for a job the hiring manager generally puts more emphasis on what you've done with what you know than with just what you know. If you have saved $100,000 at work by doing X instead of Y, then no one cares if you had a GPA of 4.0 or 2.0. Most won't care if you have a GPA at all.

Let me be honest, I have a graduate degree. I thought it would make me more hireable in my chosen career field. I no longer work in that field and can only remember two useful things from my entire graduate experience. Had I found those two useful things in a magazine somewhere I could have saved a lot of time and money. I got the degree but didn't get much of an education. On the other hand I currently work in a career field that I am woefully under-trained for and have no degree in. Instead I have gained a lot of experience learning from smart people and beating my head against a problem until I pass out and the solution comes to me in a pain induced haze. I have an education but no degree.

The beauty of an education is simple. It lets you sort through a lot of information and quickly find those parts that are critical. The sum of human knowledge on any subject is over-whelming and you cannot take into account every variable and possible scenario before you make a decision. You also get a good feel for just how much effort is necessary to succeed. It is so much easier to tell your boss something over coffee than to do a twenty page report that they may or may not read.

As I transition to a new career field I look for training and certification to get hiring manager's attention. However, I'm really hyped about getting my education. For that I write business cases for projects, try and figure out earned value and how to explain it, and stare at network diagrams until my brain oozes out my ears. If I cannot show by my experience that I have already learned the basics who will hire me to do advanced stuff?

If you are looking at a job or career transition, how good is your education? Can you prove it?

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