friday quote: self-education

Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.

-Jim Rohn

Rohn’s right.  Most of my formal education (a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, a failed stint in math PhD school, then a successful unclassified accounting-major equivalency followed by a master’s degree in accountancy) helps me land consulting work via the old-fashioned “pass around the resume” method.  But truth be told, almost all of the work I do today is derived from the technical skills I’ve acquired on my own over the last few years.  I’ve become proficient at Excel and mastered a few other arcane skills (Sarbanes-Oxley and the minutiae of Wall Street financing).  My self-education in these areas is far more valuable in doing the work than it is in obtaining the work.

I think employers will have to catch up to this at some point. They like to look at resumes and past achievements, but frankly what their employees/consultants can do today is the critical question.  Sure, I have a fancy degree in accounting from the mid-90s, but you know what?  Accounting’s changed a lot since then.  My master’s degree indicates one thing:  I have the intellectual discipline and personal focus to complete that kind of degree: I worked well with others and managed my time.  But in terms of technical skills, it doesn’t mean much today.