Have you got a degree? An MA? A PHD?
Or have you built a thriving business? Have you worked for national brands? Have you got a wealth of experience?
A few years ago, it seemed like the only way you could get a job was by having really good qualifications. Now you need experience, too. Both. So not only do you need to work hard at school and university, you've got to build your skills and get experience on the side too.
How can we do it all?
There's always an argument when it comes to our careers whether we need qualifications or experience more. Some say the former, and some say the latter. I say both. But when it comes to my first job, it was qualifications that got me there. Today I'm exploring these thoughts and sharing my personal experience of how my qualifications not only got me my first job, but also got me my latest job as a Marketing Coordinator. I'm also sharing a handful of essential skills for your career that studying for qualifications can teach you.
Are Qualifications Still Relevant?
In our parents time, university was an exception. Today, it's almost a given. Anyone from anywhere can go to university and get a degree. There's still a big prejudice with this in our society - should people who go off to do apprenticeships be seen as any less than those who go onto do A Levels?
Degrees still hold a lot of weight, because they're seen as something that confirms someone's knowledge and expertise. But think back to the post you read on here yesterday. What if we based someone's right to blog about a certain topic by the degree they had? Do they hold as much weight in that sense? Maybe not, you could argue. I'd argue differently. My Masters qualification in Brand and Magazine Journalism completely transformed the way I blog. But I also think they definitey hold less weight. They're still important, but experience is almost on the same level now.
The beauty of my MA was that I got the best of both worlds. I picked a course that not only provided me with industry-recognised qualifications, but also allowed me to work at a national magazine title. I also got the hands on experience of creating publications from scratch and learnt to use software that I wouldn't have learnt anywhere else. I wouldn't have got the job I'm in today without these various things.
Some would argue that degrees aren't relevant to creative industries. That's probably more true for our industry - but is there anything wrong with learning it from the pros and gaining an extra qualification to your name?
Sure you're taught techniques and knowledge in education that you don't get anywhere else. But there's definitely a creative element to our line of work that you can't be taught. It comes down to uniqueness and individuality, and that's what create the magic.
So whilst my employers were really interested in my ideas, they still cared what was on my application form. They cared about my qualifications. Enough to to mark it as highly important criteria.
The thing is, no matter what you do, there could be one employer who wants qualifications over everything else. It could happen.
I know what you're thinking - everyone and anyone has a degree these days, why would mine stand out?
It matters what you pick. So choose wisely. If you pick the right one, all the strings to your bow will be filled.
The Right Qualifications Give You Experience
Natural talent and unique creativity are important, but there are some things you'll only learn through an expert. My course tutor had done it all - worked for various magazines and newspapers, and reported on some huge stories. I always remember her talking about her days starting off as a Junior Reporter. Then she ended up at Good Housekeeping and created the best Journalism course in the North of the country.
Educational resources like e-books, courses and video tutorials are all available for a much cheaper course than a degree and a Masters on top of that. But will that teach you what you really want and need to know? Sure, they're legitimate resources. But just as everyone and anyone has a degree these days, everyone and anyone has a new online course they want you to buy.
I couldn't have applied for the brilliant job I've got today without my qualifications. I wouldn't have got my first job without my qualifications. I wouldn't be as assertive, independent and creative as I am without those qualifications. The year I did my Masters was one of the best of my life and it always will be. That was the year I found myself. That was the year I became happy with who I am. That was the year I found my future. And it started.
My line manager doesn't have the qualifications I've got. But she's brilliant at her job. I've got qualifications with experience combined - that's one of the reasons why she hired me.
But the reason other candidates aren't successful and you are, doesn't just come down to a qualification. It comes down to motivation, discipline, positivity, perseverance and innovation. Those traits can't be taught. You have to learn them as you go through life. These are traits that help you to be passionate about what you do. And that's when the success comes. Just like you can't quit at the first sign of failure as an entrepreneur, you can't quit when you notice signs of failure in your job.
It doesn't matter whether you're an entrepreneur or not - it's not only those people that get to be innovative. In our field, creativity is needed. That usually thrives when you're working towards a qualification.
A Final Note...
Now I'm not saying you have to have qualifications to get to where you want to be. But what I am saying is this - in my interview, I kept saying over and over that I wouldn't have been able to apply for this job and do this job, without my masters degree. That's still true, and it always will be. So yes, university might not be for you. But if it is, it'll help you in more ways than you know.
I'd love to know, what are your thoughts on this topic? Do you still believe as much in qualifications? Are they helping you to get where you want to be?