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.

  • Bruce

    It is very difficult to proclaim yourself an expert without first having an accounting designation and the masters. They are the price of admission in order to become an expert. The skills set brought by the additional learning is what in my mind separates the larger nuggets of gold from the gold dust.

  • http://www.bravenewlife.com Brave New Life

    About a month ago, I interviewed a guy over lunch along with a colleague of mine. The guy had no degree, but a lot of experience. He started out as a technician in 1978 (the year I was born) and continually learned new things over the next 3 decades. He was clearly an expert in many areas and easily qualified for the job.

    My colleague, being the old-fashioned guy that he is, acknowledged out loud that he noticed a missing degree. The candidate retorted, “I’ve been doing this for 33 years, I don’t think that’s too relevant.”

    I would extend that and say that the things I learned 11 years ago in college are equally as irrelevant. And that’s despite the fact that I’m still doing the job that my degree supposedly trained me for.