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Does Your Education Determine Your Opportunities?

Does Your Education Determine Your Opportunities?

Your formal qualifications are your ticket to the dance. You can’t practice as a lawyer, a doctor, or an electrician unless you’ve been accredited by a reputable academic institution, as having successfully navigated a process learning and critical assessment.

It tells potential employers two things: the first is that you’ve managed to achieve a basic level of competence in the knowledge required to enter the field of employment you’re targeting. The second, is that it shows at least some level of capacity for growth, hard work, and delayed gratification!

Formal management and leadership education comes later in your career, and it’s often valued very differently, depending on where you live. In Australia, an MBA for a leader is entirely optional… at best, it’s a tick in the box. Sometimes, an MBA will be dismissed as not being of any practical value, and in the worst cases, it may even be ridiculed.

I remember when I started my MBA journey over 20 years ago, I proudly announced to one of my colleagues that I was going to kick off my postgraduate studies. She said, quite offhandedly, “Marty, MBAs are a dime a dozen.” I thought for a second and then just shot back, “Sure, Lauren, but only if you have one, right?

It’s a completely different story, though, in the USA. You really need an MBA if you’re serious about progressing to the heights of corporate America. Not only is it expected that you have an MBA, but the school you attend is really important too. Is your MBA from Darden or Harvard or Sloan? Or is it an MBA from the Backwater Community College? Because it makes a difference. And people care.

So before making any big decisions about committing to long-term or high-intensity postgraduate studies, it’s important to seek some guidance and counsel from someone who’s already walked the path. They’ll be able to help you decide what’s best in your specific case.

It’s important, though, that you understand one crucial point. Education in all its forms is there to support your development so that you can perform better. That’s the bottom line. 

If your education isn’t additive to the knowledge, capability, and skill that builds your performance, then it won’t ultimately help. When you qualify with an MBA, for example, the sense of achievement is awesome. The letters after your name will make you feel proud… even important. 

But it’s all just conversation, unless it helps you to be materially better at what you do. 

No prospective employer, client, or business colleague has actually ever asked me whether I have an MBA, let alone what my grade point average was. In 20 years… 

Think of this like you’re baking a cake: Your experience and track record of performance? Well, that’s the cake. Your education is the icing on the cake. 

The icing is nice. It makes a difference. It adds color, and a little burst of sweetness… but it’s not the main game. The cake is the main game. And that’s the thing that’s going to get you your next promotion and your next pay rise… your superior performance. 

Bottom line is, your education will never, by itself, secure you a promotion, a pay rise, or a better job. But the performance it can help you deliver, will!

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