I don’t have a qualification to my name (past high school anyway).  I am capable of a great many things, but just don’t have the paperwork to prove it.  But who do I need to prove it to, myself, or everyone else?  Is it the education or the certificates that I regret not attaining (because I do)?
I suppose it’s a little of both.  Now I’m a bit older, I have no real need for the letters after my name, but would really appreciate the accumulation of formal knowledge.  When I was 20 though, selling advertising and fax machines for a living, all my friends were at university and art school.  I didn’t miss the student life, as I indulged in theirs, and also had a few bob in my pocket along with a set of car keys.  But while I was chasing sales targets, they were submitting essays and dissertations, projects and portfolios.  Learning.  I may have earned commission, but there was definitely no certificate or mortar board at the end.  I suppose I did have a bit of a complex at the time.  To the extent that I sat, and passed, the Mensa entrance exam.  I didn’t want to join, but I suppose I wanted the validation that I wasn’t an idiot after all.
My own two eldest sons have now out-qualified me (which feels weird). No1 son will begin his 4th year at Glasgow University (pictured above) after the summer, and No2 son joins 1st year medicine at St Andrews.  Over the past 25 years I have interviewed many candidates with outrageously impressive academic qualifications.  However, as a recruiter, I have seen that these do not always benefit the holder as you might expect.  For example, in the early 1990’s, an MBA graduate could actually find their qualification to be a hindrance.  Some employers had no idea what to do with them, and sometimes opted for less qualified applicants.  I knew some MBA graduates who actually removed it from their CVs.
When I was a teenager, kids were actually paid to go to university.  We had government grants, travel allowances, housing allowances, and no tuition fees!  In the 80’s, the holder of an Honours Degree was still relatively scarce, and commanded great respect for the achievement.  In 2012 there are no grants (for most), and tuition fees weigh heavily on anyone deciding to go to Uni. (Aside, there are no tuition fees in Scotland for Scottish students on their first degree).  Yet now, an unqualified candidate may as well not bother. “You don’t have a degree? What are you, stupid?”  In the eyes of most major employers, a degree is now their minimum educational requirement.
So am I going to embark on a course as a mature student?  Hell no! (although I hugely admire those who do).  I will always be learning though.  My brain is not even nearly close to being full. 
So what degree do you have, and have you been able to use that knowledge in your career?

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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