Is degree a requirement for career success? Will the absence of a degree pose any threat on your moving up your career and climbing up the corporate ladder? Let’s look at the following sharing, presented in the dear Thelma style.
I flunked my SPM, literally – and decided to walk out of Form VI to work. I gained employment initially as an Administrative Assistant in a very young IT company led by foreigners. The bread and butter business is developing and maintaining websites (on Linux platform), but the company aims to provide VOIP solutions and is very active and keen on deployment of Asterisk / PABX.
Recognizing my flair for all things IT, and the fact that I gained LPI Level 1 certificate out of pure interests after 1 year working there, my assistance was often sought to perform daily server and website maintenance, and eventually I acquired bits and pieces of SQL, XML, XHTML, JSP, and a host of other languages commonly associated with web development.
I was working for almost 4 years with very, very minimum pay, alas! it was my passion and I didn’t mind it a bit. I took it as a learning experience. With my very basic pay and the help of my parents I went for part time diploma Admin-related course in a so-called twinning college. The recognition accorded to certification churned out by this private college is highly questionable I know, but I proceeded anyway for the sake of getting some sort of certification & due to very reasonable fees.
Now at 21 getting closer to 22, the inevitable happened – the company closed, moving back to Europe. And so my quest for new job began…
At this age, after working for 4 years I am not willing to get the same basic pay again unless it is to work with something I love and where I know I can develop. However, to get the kind of job environment as I previously had is almost impossible now. When it comes to IT, a person with degree will win hands on because even though I’ve worked with a lot of languages, heard a lot of jargons, familiar with a lot of softwares, I do not have any specialization. Pretty general and even though I’m very good at website creation and design, reality is – these days, an 11 year old can create websites anyway, no biggie.
And to opt for job in relation to my diploma is – a joke. I mean the pay. It’s ridiculous for entry level. Not to mention the difficulty in gaining one. At least, if it’s IT related, and more importantly – where I know I can develop – I do not mind.
So I went for a call center job (surprise! surprise!), good pay – $2,500 (banking). 6 months into this job and I loathe it no end. The job is repetitive. I do not mind the rotating shifts nor the need to stay back to finish up work, however – I do not see how I can possibly develop from this type of job. Another thing, I have been wanting to further my studies and take up degree courses on part time basis but it’s a bit impossible with irregular hours now…
And whenever I think about getting a new job – same old dilemma. To fall back on my questionable diploma for very basic pay or to use my call center experience to get another call center job. If it’s IT helpdesk at Satyam or Dell or HP it’s a different story but I was not even called for interview for these posts due to lack of qualifications.
So friends have been advising – go back to full time studies for a quality degree. I have never considered this option before as I love working but I can’t possibly be having this type of dilemma 3 years down the road when I turn 25. At least by then I ought to have a degree I can count on, on top of my experience.
I really hope you can advise me on this, I figure one critical factor is my age. It’s a bit late to start a degree course at this age I suppose but if I were to wait, then it’s going to be even worse.
That, and do share with me your thoughts on this – some people say papers are not everything, but really – is that the case? Or – papers (degree) have become as basic as SPM that having it is not a guarantee to anything anymore. And, not possessing it in this time of age could mean – serious disadvantage?
Firstly, you were lucky enough to have worked at a place that provide you with an ideal working environment, even though you had been hoping for a higher pay. The closing of the company it such an unfortunate event but perhaps there is blessing behind it. Do not let your attachment to the old company retards your quest of finding the next ideal career. No two companies are the same; there are pros and cons working with different organizations – to find another company that can provide an exactly similar environment will be next to impossible. You will realize this as the years pass by.
It’s never too old to pursue studies
Learning is a lifelong process and it is never too late for you to embark on continuous pursue of studies. If you ask me, yes, continue study and improve your knowledge as if no one can stop you. Go for degree (does not matter if it is full time or part time as long as it is recognized), post grad diploma, Masters or PhD if you can. 22 years old is still a young age; I know a number of friends who completed their Diploma and Degree when nearing retirement age!
In fact, in many ways, you have advantages over those who are studying and yet to step into the realm of employment world. Your thinking is more mature, you know what to expect, and most importantly, you know what triggers you and you have the right attitude. Believe you me, there are tons of people out there who completed their studies but were clueless of what to do and how they can enter the reality of working world. Looking it from another perspective, while having a degree is a desirable attainment, if it contributes to no good, then might as well you don’t have it.
However, pursuant of study must come with the right frame of mind. While ‘degree as a prerequisite for [anything]‘ is a popular, preconceived notion, don’t go into degree because ‘this is what most people do’ (do this and later you will be eventually left kicking yourself and ask, “Is that all?”). Do it because you want to do it and learn things from your study. Do it with aim to develop yourself.
Yes, you’ll have disadvantages maneuvering your career without a degree but do not be too discouraged with the fact that you have shortcomings in your education. People have attained success in the career and life without proper academic background and history speaks for itself. There is quality in you and there are not many people who can express their dilemma in such a way. Hence it is not surprising to learn about how much you earn in your call center job.
Do a job you love; and not you loathe
This is quite a popular dilemma, and I can’t recall how many people complained how much they hate their job. Statistically, more than 60% of the people working in this world do not like their job. In other words, on average, for every 10 people who read this article, 6 of them hate their job. Given a choice, I’d rather do a low paying job that I love rather than doing a high paying job I hate. Doing something out of your passion and interest is detrimental to your health, physically and mentally. Also, if you think about it, work and learning (including study in higher institution) are designed to be repetitive and routine.
In a way, this provides you with a platform of mastery. It is the art and science of perfection. A call center job may sound too routine but there is a lot more to it than just answering calls- there is problem/incident management, operational set up, knowledge transfer, team leadership, 1st, 2nd and third level and more. Think about this, a chef needs to learn the peeling technique for a continuous 12 months and folding napkin for the next 12 months. The production of a master chef is as a result of mastery those techniques and processes. The likes of Jamie Oliver, Chef Wan, Chef Ismail or Gordon Ramsey are not born overnight but through years of ‘grounding’.
In conclusion, to answer the question, yes, the opportunity for career path enhancement is somehow limited without a degree qualification. The blatant truth is; many multinational companies refuse to screen candidates who are without one. However, bear in mind that one who possesses a degree but fails to live to the expectation of the employer is a worse loser and is in a more serious trouble.
[Image credit: University of Alberta]