Not that my choice of first degree (economics) was that much more exciting, but it seemed a sensible course of study at the time. Three years later, still none the wiser about what I wanted to be when I grew up, I somehow found myself embarking on a career in banking, as one does.
Quite a few years later I went back to school to do an MBA, and I haven’t stopped since. It’s not even due to the extra time I have because I don’t have a TV, but mainly because I’m just too blooming curious. Having gotten bored with finance as a research subject, I have turned my attention to law. Let me tell you, it is by far not as dull as I always thought it would be.
No doubt this is, for a large part, due to the fact that I look at the rather obscure bits, but still. I’ve since learned that apparently it is no longer acceptable for a man who “surprises his wife with another man” to punish the culprits by tying them together and throwing them in the water as it was 4,000 or so years ago (no matter how tempting it may sound). And what to think about this one: in the 17th century a learned man opined that although the practice of chopping of a hand in the event of theft as was practiced in the Orient was a bit severe, it beat the punishment for thieving in the UK at the time. Which, in case you’re wondering, was death by hanging.
But I digress. I firmly believe Einstein was right when he said, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death”, no matter whether it is via a culmination of degrees, or done informally. Thing is, unless you work as a consultant, it tends to scare the living daylights out of (almost) anyone who considers employing you on a permanent contract. They will happily tell you that you’re overqualified, which is the translation of “I’m afraid you are smarter than me and will take my job”. Now, I have no interest in their job, but still, I am overqualified.
The point is that I'm doing it for me, and my own personal thirst for knowledge. So long ago, I started being very selective about my qualifications on my CV, leaving off whatever I thought might be counterproductive. But surely that can’t be right either. It means we actually don’t practice what we preach when we urge kids to do well in school, get good grades, and have multiple degrees. Perhaps we should collectively just say sod it, if you’ve worked for it, you’ve earned it, and should be proud of it. My parents are, and so they should be - my dad tends to go around the village where they live bragging about us, and he is in his 70s. It still doesn’t mean I’m the right candidate for the job and someone with practical experience might be much better suited. But I guess a bit of balance might not go amiss. So, to all of those recruiting out there: try and find out what someone can bring to your team or organisation, don’t get blinded by degrees, and don’t underestimate the value of common sense and experience. Equally, don’t let these things scare you either.
And while I’m at it, please bring back the polytechnics, vocational training and apprenticeships. Not everyone wants or needs a university degree, particularly not when it involves relatively made-up subjects like media studies. No offence, but that one seems to be the mainstay for the not-so-academically inclined, and they deserve a lot better.