To most people, subjects like maths and physics are deemed hard and they promptly drop them to take subjects they find easy in their latter years of high school. We are inherently lazy and consequently choose the option of greatest ease. This principle has a lot of merit in the context of working smarter not harder and taking the shortest route between Point A and B. However, when it comes to study and research, many of us choose the easy subjects through laziness and a lack of ambition. This easy option often serves to achieve great dis-ease as we embark on our careers or tertiary study when our lack of commitment to our studies at school hijacks our preferred career or study path. Regardless of what subjects you chose in high school or what tertiary qualification you may choose to study, being deemed educated by our associates and peers is singularly the most vital component in our employability. For clarity; educated in this context does not solely denote having a tertiary qualification or having obtained good grades at school, it denotes what one knows and the skill with which one can use it.
Mark Spitz commented that ‘everyone wants to be a champion but very few want to train’ after winning seven gold medals at the 1972 Olympics for swimming. This statement encompasses why for all the people setting off for work each day around the world, there are so few that are truly excited about another day in their career versus those that simply clock in and out each day at a job. Many people who place themselves in the stupid category believe that a career is reserved for the clever ones and consequently they under-achieve in a job for decades until they retire. Dear friends, what we know and don’t know is a choice. People that are deemed experienced have achieved this reputation by deliberately expanding their knowledge and skill over a sustained period and not because someone opened their head and filled it with something.
We know that experience is the most valuable currency in forging an inspiring and lucrative career for ourselves but, if you are a recent school leaver you can hardly present a relevant level of experience to prospective employers because you haven’t achieved it yet. So, how on earth does one kick-start a career?
Who you are and what you know influences how you are perceived by everyone else but, in addition there is a very powerful and authentic way to gain experience and skill and communicate your professional aspirations to the world.
If you do not currently have many years of work experience but you can provide prospective employers or clients with evidence that you are genuinely committed to a discipline for which you are seeking employment, and consequently that you have a brain and are prepared to use it, a tertiary qualification is probably the most valuable evidence you can present. If you have a tertiary qualification from a reputable education provider, it will give you a significant advantage and consequently send you closer to the front of the job queue. Yes, there is the ongoing cynical belief of some creative media industry practitioners that one cannot learn the necessary skills required for employment in a formal institution but, if this were true, education providers offering tuition in these disciplines would not exist. Education is not an island on the planet of supply versus demand. In fact, a reputable education provider would not gain this reputation if they do not employ trainers with extensive professional credibility and the resumés to support it. The irony is that if the institution has discerning hiring practices of trainers, it provides a student with not one but many internships that run concurrently during the course of the student’s studies. This is achieved by exposing the student to many informed and highly skilled thoughts, opinions and workflows during the course of their studies that do not simply simulate industry scenarios but provide actual industry experience during the curriculum. This profile is not the case if a single person mentors an individual in a single facility, as is the case in the traditional profile of an internship.
The reality is that many of the most revered vocations that afford career professionals higher earnings and greater scope, are not often obsessing about maths versus home economics but rather the quality of the grades the individual obtained in whatever course of study they have undertaken, as evidence of their commitment to whatever they do and their intellectual capacity. Yes, for certain vocations specific subject matter is essential to be considered for entry into a tertiary study program or line of employment, but most clients and employers are more concerned with what you can do and how well you can do it.
The division we place on clever and stupid further exacerbates this reality. ‘Clever folk take maths and physics, while the stupid opt for the soft options in subject matter’. This article is not interested in clever or stupid but real life, and more specifically skills that afford us greater opportunities and higher earnings as career professionals.
Our attitude and what we know are the two most important criteria to a prospective client or employer when they are deciding whether to invest their time and money in us. Many people believe that their resumé (CV) is the instrument that gets them the job or gig. Our resumé, at best, will get us a call to attend an interview at which the client or employer will then decide, quite simply, if they like us or not. Yes our qualifications and skills are very important but we tend to over-complicate the process of qualified and qualifications, when in fact it is a far simpler scenario of whether the person across the interview table believes they can work with us or not. Of course all parties are traditionally on their best behaviour around the interview table but, a discerning professional will quickly establish whether they want to employ, or be employed by this person or not. Most of this process is dictated by human interaction and not by how many PhDs someone has.
In summary, the more you know, the more employable you are, and the more money you can earn from your knowledge. How do you know when you are qualified? Get the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of IDM to find out.
About the author:David Maclean is a mastering engineer, educator and business executive with two decades of experience in the music industry and tertiary education sector. David is the Director of SAE Institute South Africa and is based at their campus in Cape Town. The Cape Town campus is one of 53 SAE campuses across the globe. David is known as the ‘white crocodile’ because of his unusual portfolio that includes equal-parts business, education and music production. Consequently David understands the attitudes and opinions of the industry professionals within the creative media technologies industries and the educator’s and authorities within Higher Education in South Africa and abroad.