I Don’t Have a Degree….

I don’t have a college degree”at least not one that I can claim. Apparently a 2-year Associates degree in broadcasting from BCIT doesn’t cut it, since the one time I did seriously look at getting my degree I found out 2 years of college in Canada amounted to exactly two credits from any US college. You get one credit for filling out the form on time. Shame all those university-educated Canucks are so lacking in useful skills”. But I digress.

"To be fond of learning is to be near to knowledge" Tze-sze, The Doctrine of the Mean, 5th Century BCE

My point (and all appearances to the contrary I do have one) is that I’m not without learning, just a formal college education. Not being defensive, but 1.2 million kids graduate each year from college. This is a huge number, but it’s about ¾ the number of articles I’ve read in the last year claiming we don’t have enough workers who know anything and we’ll all be speaking Indonesian by May. What exactly are they learning in there they can’t use, and what AREN’T they learning that they need?

"Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught" Oscar Wilde The Critic As Artist 1890

While I do feel something is lacking, I also am smart enough to know that knowledge can be gained at any time in someone’s life- and from any number of sources. Rosa’s "Talking Story", just for one example, links to dozens of blogs, podcasts, web resources, books and, according to the guy outside my office building who talks to himself, a chip inside his head and he’d like her to knock it off.

"The true university of these days is a collection of books." The Hero as Man of Letters – Thomas Carlyle

The challenge for employers, of course, is that it’s easy to look at a college degree and make some assumptions about what someone knows or doesn’t. I sympathize. It’s a little difficult to prove someone’s learned something after school. I have days at work I wonder if anyone’s learned anything since we masted that walking upright thing, but then I’m a terrible cynic and it’s been a rough week.

"Instead of going to Paris to attend lectures, go to the public library, and you won’t come out for twenty years, if you really wish to learn." Leo Tolstoy 

So yeah, workers may be lacking skills. Great, pay for good people to acquire them. You don’t have the skills you need- go get’em. You might not get a degree”.heck I’m not planning to get one, but the skills”” the knowledge”” the experience”. Those things are gettable. And you learn better when motivated.

"Just as eating against one’s will is injurious to health, so study without a liking for it spoils the memory, and it retains nothing it takes in" Leonardo Da Vinci C. 1500

Why all the quotes? Because this notion is nothing new- it’s hardly news. And people way smarter than me say so”.

"” the firmest and most general ideas I have are those which have been born with me. They are naturally and wholly mine”since then I have established and fortified them by the authority of others and the sound arguments of the ancients with whom I found my judgment in agreement. These men have given me a firmer grip on my ideas and a fuller enjoyment and possession of them" -Michel de Montaigne

So my daughter, Her Serene Highness, says at the dinner table "Dad, you don’t have a degree, do you? You write books, you teach, you have that silly podcast of yours”. people pay you pretty well. Why do I have to go to college?" 

I had the answer all ready” all those quotes- all that wisdom of the ancients. I was finally ready for this one.

"Because I said so"- Me

You may quote me.

This is Her Serene Highness (the smart one) and her peasant father taken this summer.

Wayne Turmel is the Director of Faculty for Communispond and the host of The Cranky Middle Manager Show Podcast.


  1. says

    Gotta say, I wanna learn from you Wayne! Wit and wisdom in some of the best writing around. No one lets us have it plain and simple and delicious like you do!

  2. says

    Just how much does that piece of paper cost these days? Heck… When I was in college the degree for the current field I’m in didn’t exist. They didn’t even have calculators… much less computers back in the 70’s. Go figure.

  3. says

    Go Wayne
    I was a latecomer to the university thing and even as I took part I knew it really didn’t actually mean much in the end. Lifelong learning will do it every time.
    BTW I love your style. A little bit tongue-in-cheek and right up my alley!

  4. says

    Wayne, As a dad, some of the most memorable times spent with my daughter were during her college years…so I fully support the “because I said so” statement.
    I’ve often thought about hiring personnel’s position on folks with degree’s. “Those people invested their time and obtained a degree.” Ok. But have they kept current or pursued additional education? How many books do they read? How many trade journals, magazines, cd’s, online courses, blogs, podcasts, etc?

  5. says

    In my area of technology degrees these days seem to be madatory. But the best technicians and engineers that I know don’t have them – that have common-sense, the ability to tweak and tinker and ability to know what to leave alone.
    A degree in many of the technical disciplines doesn’t teach you how to problem-solve, deal with ambiguities or how to communicate with the lay-person about what is happening.
    In my time managing young engineers straight out of university I had to take all the great knowledge they had learnt (more about being rewarded for being right than anything else) and “mold” it into something that was really useful to the company and our clients. I wish they had taught them that as part of the degree.
    Great post!!

  6. says

    Thank you Wayne for tackling the great behemoth of college/university degrees. You are absolutely correct about the over-valuing of college degrees. One of the smartest people I know never even went to college, and he is one of my most treasured teachers!
    I believe that self-motivated learning is the most effective learning that instills the qualities and skills in a person. It is these qualities that employers should look for in a potential employee instead of reading a resume.
    I love the quotes and I will most definitely use your last one! Mahalo for this great article.

  7. says

    I have a degree, but everything I learned in life I learned either in high school or after college! Oh, ok, I learned one thing in college – beer and liquor don’t mix! ;)
    I will have to use your quote one day! What an inspiring post…

  8. says

    What an inspirational post! Thanks Rosa! Your insights about learning are powerful and what you say here her backed in the latest research about how brains works best! Thanks for these questions which have me already pondering another post. In the meantime you have so much we all need — so my advide is to GO LEARN ‘EM ROSA! Many of us are in the frey with you and are glad you are here!

  9. says

    I always say that the most important thing to know is to “know what you don’t know”. So many people with a degree in tech think they know everything, at least at first. I don’t have a degree, and our best employee doesn’t have one, either. The one with the degree and the most certs under his belt – well, I remember the day he realized that his training and certs didn’t prepare him for the acutal job, and he was angry – down right angry to the point of needing to calm down, that he’d spent all that money and time, and still couldn’t ‘do the job’, without a whole lot of learning and experience.

  10. says

    Thank you Ellen, however I must give the credit to Wayne for this post… wish I could write like he does!
    You have a wonderful blog Ellen, and we’ll be clicking in to see what you write, for you’re right about us being in this learning together.
    (I’m glad I’m here too!)

  11. says

    Great stuff, Wayne!
    Last October, the crack (cracked?) team at RogueProjectLeader.com put together something we call the “Rogue University Masters Curriculum.” It’s basically a list of books to read and DIY projects designed to actually prepare someone for the work of leading projects. The link is below – I think you’ll get a kick out of it.