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  • Writer's pictureLena Hill

Unmasking the Education Myth: Skills vs Degrees

A large carrot underground with a little greenery above with 'having a skill' captioned. Another small carrot underground with large greenery above ground with 'having a degree' as the caption
One? Or Both? None?

Let me paint a picture for you, one that involves a pair of humble carrots. The first, a robust carrot, is snugly nestled in the earth, with a few modest green leaves peeking out. It proudly proclaims, “having skills.” The second carrot, smaller in size, is predominantly hidden underground, but boasts an extravagant array of lush green leaves above ground, boldly declaring “having a degree.” I saw this post on LinkedIn and, with a fist bump, said ‘right on!’.

Imagine my surprise when I read the caption beneath this seemingly innocent cartoon that slapped me with a harsh reality: “This image is false! Having a degree is more important because if you JUST have the skills then you lack fundamentals that can create an ‘uncontrolled’ work environment.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle, but it also made me ponder the profound implications of this seemingly straightforward imagery. In a world obsessed with formal education, are we missing the forest for the trees? Is a degree truly the ultimate measure of a person’s worth in the professional realm? Are we sidelining individuals with unparalleled skills, simply because they lack a piece of paper validating their knowledge?

This cartoon encapsulates a prevailing mindset, one deeply entrenched in our society. The notion that having a formal education equips you with indispensable ‘fundamentals’ while those relying solely on skills are somehow a liability in a professional setting. But let me debunk this myth once and for all. Education, my friends, is not limited to lecture halls, textbooks, and meticulously crafted diplomas. Education is curiosity-driven, tenacious, and relentless. It’s the spirit of exploration and the thirst for knowledge that truly define education, not the institution that grants you a certificate. It is also not something that is gained simply in the early years of adulthood.

I am a 44 year old woman who, at 18 years old, wanted nothing more than to stand on a stage and sing, dance and act. I went to a university and got a degree so I could do just that. Later in life as my experiences, lifestyle, interests, and needs evolved, serving that 18 year old’s dreams became less of a priority. So I followed my north star and went into voice over, then audio engineering, then audio production, then directing, then producing, then teaching, then entrepreneurship, to now on the precipice of opening a coaching business to dedicate my life to nurturing authentic self-expression through a holistic emotional embodiment approach for those recovering from trauma and those who are not. I’ve had hundreds of hours of theoretical work and even more cultivating my approach with clients. I don’t have a degree. I have an intense amount of skills. Do I lack ‘fundamentals’? Perhaps. But what I don’t lack is care, knowledge, expertise, and passion. Does this mean I can’t occupy this space for lack of a degree? Absolutely not.

So why do we persist in this archaic belief that a formal education is the only pathway to success? Is it the security of a structured curriculum or the assurance that you’ve mastered the ‘fundamentals’? Maybe. But here’s the harsh truth: the world is evolving at an unprecedented pace. The skills that truly matter are adaptability, creativity, critical thinking, and the ability to collaborate effectively. These skills are not confined within the walls of an educational institution; they are cultivated through real-world experiences, passion-driven projects, and the sheer audacity to question the status quo.

What’s truly disheartening is the way we label and categorize individuals based on their educational background. The ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ the ‘educated’ and ‘uneducated’ — these divisions are arbitrary and stifling. Let’s be clear: skills are not the exclusive domain of those with degrees. There are individuals out there (like me!), self-taught and driven by a relentless passion for their craft, who are pushing the boundaries of innovation and creativity. Their education comes from a place of genuine curiosity, unbridled passion, and a desire to make a meaningful impact, not from a lecture series or a textbook.

To employers advocating for diversity and inclusion, it’s time to walk the talk. Look beyond the framed certificates adorning the walls. Engage with individuals whose skills speak volumes, whose portfolios are a testament to their ingenuity and expertise. Don’t let the lack of a degree overshadow their potential. In fact, acknowledge that these individuals bring a unique perspective, an unconventional approach that often leads to groundbreaking innovations.

It’s high time we discarded the outdated belief that a degree is the ultimate measure of a person’s capabilities. Let’s celebrate skills, passion, and the audacity to challenge conventional norms. Let’s create a future where everyone, regardless of their educational background, is given an equal opportunity to shine. Innovation doesn’t come neatly packaged with a diploma; it thrives in the hearts and minds of those daring enough to challenge the status quo.

The world needs more innovators, more free thinkers, and more creators. Let’s not stifle their potential by clinging to outdated perceptions of education. Embrace the skills, nurture the talent, and watch as a new generation of trailblazers transforms the world, one idea at a time.

originally published on Medium

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