The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it. (Lord of the Rings)
In the last years, I’ve had 11 people working as interns for me in the Communications Department of a certain foundation. Most of them were students from a Corporate Communications master’s program, because we had an agreement with the University of the Basque Country to hire our interns from among their students. But the degree itself is not what I look for in their résumés. I always look for what is hidden.
What do you like to do most? What were your reasons for studying communications? Do you have the same hopes and dreams? What do you want to become when you grow up?
I’ve always tried to uncover in the interviews what most students wanted to hide in their CVs. Because our educational system, with some (very few?) exceptions, doesn’t provide students with enough skills to face their careers. They have a lot of theoretical knowledge—which serves for nothing in real life. I understand one has to have these theories before putting them into practice, and studying provides you with many abilities that you wouldn’t achieve otherwise. However, studying journalism doesn’t make you a good journalist. You need the experience, you need some skills, and, above all, you need the instinct.
I thought about this the other day, as I was rewriting the volunteer recruiting sheet of the TEDx event I’m organizing. There are three main questions I ask there:
- What do you know?
- What do you like?
- What are your skills?
I don’t care about people’s studies. I care about what they are passionate about.
Ok. Volunteering is not exactly the same thing as an actual job; sometimes it is more exigent. It’s an activity that might provide you with a lot of satisfaction, but the reward doesn’t come in an obvious way most of the time.
If I look back, the jobs that I’ve performed best are the ones I was most passionate about, the ones in which I could see a goal on the horizon or that made me believe I was doing something to improve the world. This might sound ambitious, but I’m talking about my little world, an affordable, reachable world.
So, does a degree spark talent? Are you what you study? Even more so, are you always and forever what you study? What if your hobbies surpass your education? What if you’re good at something that doesn’t have a regular academic program? Is the business world ready for this change?
The truth is that I studied 25 years ago. Little has changed since then. Worries are the same. A person is nothing without complementing his or her knowledge with real-world skills.
The education system is so out-of-touch with reality that some companies have started removing degree requirements from their job descriptions, just in the same way I really didn’t need a degree to hire someone or to recruit them as a volunteer. Higher education studies are important, of course. Or are they?