Keep it up guys. I have been a regular reader for more than a year now, and it is well worth it. You guys have really helped me out a number of times, but now I need more advice. I am doing my Bachelor’s in Electronics and Communication Engineering. Well, what I have planned for myself is to plunge into the field of Telecommunications. The thing is that there has been a boom in the computer field for quite some time, with salaries and benefits soaring. I need your help. Please guide me; which field should I take? My goal, in the long run, is to b
e successful. You know, money, power, respect, and all the other good things in life.
Three years ago, I left college to work at a great company. Today, thanks to the high-tech boom, I have very little reason to get back to school. I make six digits a year and have everything I have ever dreamed of. Still, my dad pesters me about going back to school. I do not want to, but a part of me knows that it may be wise to do it now, finish my education, and then get back to work. Do you think that I’ll be able to be in a classroom again? Will I lose or gain by the time I’m done? Do you really think that one needs a degree in our times?
E-mail to the rescue
These are just a couple of examples of the e-mail I have recently received about school, education, degrees, and careers. For the longest time, people have assumed that education is the gateway to the good life. These people were not wrong after all. You do need to practice reading and writing after all, no? Of course you do, but in a time when we can all read and write (once you learn how), and have access to the wealth of information and worldwide reach of the Internet — the greatest library of all-time — do we really need to institutionalize ourselves into a classroom and complete a degree?
Great question with a not so obvious answer. Let’s see why.
A large portion of the job market has shifted over to services, from production and manufacturing. As a result, the skills required have changed as well. Over the past decade alone, the criteria required to succeed in a connected global marketplace have radically been transformed. What skills are necessary to excel today?
- Ability to adapt
- Quick learning skills
- Multicultural knowledge and attitude (at least not ethnocentric)
- Awareness of the opportunities beyond boundaries
- Sponge-like ability to absorb on the fly
- Knowledge sharing
If these factors emphasize change more than anything else, then 2 questions resurface:
1. Why would anyone want to lock themselves up in school for years when they could be gaining experience — the most precious commodity of our era?
2. Who cares which degree you get, since everything you learn becomes obsolete so quickly?
Want the answers? Then stay awake and don’t doze off.
I remember going to an interview with a large consumer goods products firm and being surprised that they would hire any student with any degree, provided that they passed certain tests and represented the cream of their respective crop.
While their subjective testing idea seemed a bit too claustrophobic for my liking, I was impressed that this “old-school” corporation was open-minded enough to hire non-business types since they understood that different was good, especially when your clients are not business students, but rather people with backgrounds from A to Z.
So, what does a degree mean if it has no impact on hiring selectivity? My thought has always been that school serves to teach young men and women discipline. Face it, if you can sit your derrire on a seat for hours (and we are not talking about a bar stool folks) and listen to a professor, and then survive your class and pass, then you have shown discipline.
This is school’s ultimate lesson. It is easy for a student to miss a class without the teacher even noticing (unless of course, you are the class clown). But when you work, chances are that no one will be there to punch you in. Your boss will notice, and you will get the boot.
Can it be so simple?
Obviously, things are not this simple. Of the two aforementioned e-mails, the second case is clearly different. If you left school early and are doing well for yourself, then who am I to tell you that you should go back to school? If you wish to finish your studies and this is your explicit goal, then sure, go back to school. But being in school is not a goal in itself. Learning is the goal. As a result, if you are learning at work and are not falling behind in terms of your industry, then you are meeting your goal.
Tight job market
The first e-mail is different. In this case, the gentleman is asking me whether or not his concentration matters. The truth is, whether you are studying engineering and are looking at a career in wireless, or studying computer science for a career in computers, is quite irrelevant if you ask me. Why? Because both fields require tremendous intellect, dedication and hard work, and that is what employers look for when they hire.
You’ll see Nokia hiring a computer guy just as much as Oracle might hire an engineer. In this tight job market, companies want smart, sharp and hard workers who think out of the box; they rarely care about the specific fields the candidates hail from.
Don’t get me wrong; it is one thing if you were comparing a business guy to an engineer, or a liberal arts student to a software architect, but a scientist researches and develops ideas and allows businessmen to commercialize these. But without the guys who “connect the dots” — the engineers, the software architects, etc. — business guys would have to work five times as hard to keep themselves busy. Only the really versatile and sharp ones survive. Conversely, the “techies” have different goals and often look at business guys as the ones who “make them rich” because they can sell, for example.
What all this means in our economy, is that you need to make sure that you are learning. When you are on the Web, use the resources available to you to find out about what you have always wanted to learn. Only then will you be ahead of the pack. There is a reason why the Bill Gates’ and Ted Turners never finished school. They probably disagreed with most of the stuff they were hearing anyway. Also, they were probably eager to get it done — their way. And they probably knew all along that it would be their way that would make it into textbooks in future generations.