What do Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs all have in common? Besides all having incredibly successful careers, none have a university degree. This begs the question – is education the be all and end all? If not, why is it often a prerequisite?

As a naive 17 year-old high-school leaver I was told it would be essential for my future. So what did I do? Enrol. doorsAlthough I don’t regret it and am proud of my achievements, I sometimes think ‘What if’? What doors would have opened for me? Or would I have to open my own? Like these well-known entrepreneurs and innovators have displayed, education isn’t a deal-breaker. With relentless drive, resilience, perseverance and optimism, these people opened their own doors.

This topic entered my mind when in a recent job interview and told about an employee who started off in the exact same position as I was attempting to attain. This person had no higher education and was now in a senior position earning a six-figure salary after only a few years in the job. I sat there thinking… did I just waste 3 years of my life doing something I possibly didn’t have to do? What have I actually learnt throughout this period of my life?

After pondering for a while, I figured out that although learning extensively about theories, models, definitions and the like, university has more importantly taught me about who I am and how to succeed. When not doing so well on an assignment, I learnt how to be resilient, when considering whether higher education was really worth it, I learnt how to persevere, and when stuck at a crossroads on an assignment I learnt how essential optimism is. But what about drive and motivation? For me, this is the game changer – in any context.

Take any sports man or woman for example. They could have an unmatched natural ability, but without that inner voice pushing them to achieve, they probably wouldn’t. An incredibly smart student could get a GPA of 7, but it’s their decision whether to apply themselves. So I pose the question again – is education the be all and end all? If you had two candidates standing in front of you – one with a university degree, but lacking these key traits, the other without higher education but with an aura of motivation…who would you choose?

In my opinion, a degree isn’t a necessity. Instead of being a ticket to success, it is only one piece of the puzzle. This is probably the most important lesson I’ve taken away from the past 3 years. Those who don’t undertake higher education, will probably still reach their desired destination, they just take a different route. I will try and keep this in mind as a future HR specialist. When flicking through applicants resumes and when conducting an interview – education will only be a minor consideration.

Emily Kasprowicz – Graduate Consultant

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