Naturally, I quickly took a tally of the student loans I still owe and the knowledge that was packed into me from Kindergarten until college graduation. Is this what has earned me my career? I mean, sure–I wouldn’t even have a job at a fast-food chain if I didn’t know how to read or write. And my college years helped me to refine my interests and connect with people that ultimately got me to where I am today. But I can’t help but resonate with this quote and the feeling that what I learned on my own, through trial and error after error after error, is what truly allowed me to make a success of what I love doing.
Consider this: Right now, how many of the skills you use everyday for your career did you know in college? I’m willing to bet (more money than most did on the Kentucky Derby) that 97% of the skills you rely on daily to do your job you learned–on the job. A lot of people would probably bet the same. But here’s the better question. Without your college degree could you still do the job you’re doing now? If you answered with a reasonable yes, you might choose to agree with me when I say that college degrees are more a formality than an actual education. Those four years taught me a lot about life and slowly weened me into the real world, but aside from that, the skills I use most are the skills I learned outside the classroom.
Just recently a client asked me to write a White Paper to market one of their products. After I answered with a confident “Sure! I’ll do it!” I realized I knew nothing more about a white paper other than the color and material it should be on. With the magic of Google and the determination to show them I knew what I was doing, I taught myself in one weekend what 1/3 of a semester in college might have been spent on.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade in any of my years spent on formal education for the world. Even if I took more from 6th grade recess, 11th grade caferteria conversations and freshman socials than I did from the classroom–it was well worth it. My formal education allowed me the time to grow into who I am today and instilled in me the core concepts of learning that I continue to apply, but my self-education carries the most value to me. Maybe what I love the most is that we’re all our own teachers now. While we are beyond the times of pop quizes and exams, the true test is whether you continue pushing yourself even when you know there’s no report card or bachelors degree at the end of the road…just personal pride. And, well, maybe that’s more than enough…