Tushar and Reema – colleagues in an organisation – were performing very well and were both in-line for a promotion. After weeks of performance evaluations and discussions with seniors, Reema was promoted, while Tushar was left wondering, what went wrong? On paper, Tushar’s resume was more impressive with an Engineering and MBA degree; Reema only had a degree in computer studies. Why was Reema was selected over Tushar for the coveted promotion? If you had asked their seniors, you would learn that while Tushar was more educated than Reema, he lacked some key skills which Reema had, including team-leading, stakeholder management and certifications.
What do we learn from this? Does a degree have no value? Are skills more important than a degree? Well, the answer is not entirely straightforward. A degree is important to land a job, but it is the skills you posses that take you up the ladder. One without the other is of no use, but together they can create magic in the professional landscape.
The Degree Mania
The Indian education system is structured in a way that puts undue emphasis on acquiring multiple degrees. Without a degree, getting a job is perceived as close to impossible. On the other hand, we have vocational courses which equip you with a particular skill, but there are very few courses to help you make your way through a strong career path. However, the reality is once you are on-the-job, a degree loses its importance; what really matters is how you build your soft skills, display leadership and keep abreast with the latest trends in your field. If you work in a bank, your MBA degree will matter less and how you deal with customers and catch-up with digital innovations will help you move ahead.
Building Skill Sets
A degree can be acquired after 3-4 years of education, but skill sets are not time-bound. Some skills take years to develop, while a few can be acquired easily. New-age employers look for a candidate who not only knows their job, but also knows how to do it well. So, are skills in-built? Are people born with them? The answer is both yes and no. Some people are born with inherent skills, but most people acquire a lot of skills over time through regular practice. A holistic learning environment from an early age can often help an individual get a much needed jump start in this area. The best and fastest way to develop skill sets is to observe, train and implement. A lot of companies offer training and development opportunities for to learn soft skills and acquire certifications. Employees should make full use of such training sessions and then implement what they learn in their roles.
The Recruiter Mindset
Modern-day recruiters are no longer only looking at a candidate’s degrees. The interview processes has evolved quite a bit – recruiters want to judge how a candidate will think and perform in various situations. Companies are looking for people who can a) perform well under diverse circumstances, b) learn fast, c) innovate freely, d) communicate clearly, e) operate without much hand-holding and f) wear multiple hats as and when necessary – all of this is only possible with practical skill sets, which degrees alone cannot really guarantee.
How we wish our schools and colleges taught us how to face difficult situations creatively along with solving trigonometry sums! But, times are changing fast and we should, too. Let’s make it a point to offer our children access to all the resources they need to be well-rounded enough to excel in the workplace.
Also published on Medium.