After each session, someone always sidles up to me and asks the same old
question: ‘Do you think I should do a PhD?’.
Wringing my hands and gritting my teeth I say, ‘Why do you ask? What do you
think it will do to enhance your career?’.
My concern is that we have bred a generation who feel that qualifications
alone are a basis for career success.
Quite frankly, they are not.
We live in a society where, with half of all school leavers going to
university, we are drowning in qualifications, meaning that in most cases these
academic achievements fail to be a decisive factor in determining career
Of course, if an employer is looking for enormous brain power, as some of the
big global financial institutions are, a PhD in some esoteric field of
mathematics may well be a decisive advantage. For the rest of us, however, when
considering either an internal promotion or a job elsewhere, shortlisted
candidates will all have the same qualifications, because that is what the
candidate specification will require.
For 30 years now, the education system in this country has let us down. It is
perhaps best illustrated by the fact that parents and schools have led their
children to believe that by studying business studies at A-level and university
they are going to have a material advantage in pursuing a commercial career.
It won’t, and it hasn’t. Looking around, it is clear that some of the most
successful people in business have read history, anthropology, philosophy,
psychology, modern languages, or nothing at all.
My message to parents is encourage your children to study subjects at
university that they excel at and that excite them. Those of you who have got
offspring scheduled to come out of university in the summer of 2007, make it
clear to them that the possession of a qualification will not get them a job.
The decisive factors will be those other aspects that they bring to the
party: their character, their interests, their communication skills, their
behaviour, their appearance. Some of these issues may well appear to be
politically incorrect. Make no mistake, they are real.
And, by the way, those of you with school-age children, these are the facts
of life you really can teach them, because they probably think they know all
about the other variety, already.
Andrew Garner is CEO of Garner International
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