Formal Education and Employment

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about degrees and formal education: why do so few employers seem to notice that the best person for a job may have little formal education?

I have noticed that there are some people that are the perfect person for the job they are in, and never even graduated high school. There are brilliant minds that never graduated high school, much less attended college, but are, and would be, the best person for a specific job/career nonetheless. So, my question is why do so few employers seem to notice that the best person for a job may have little formal education?

Some people enjoy learning and training at and for their job, but don’t have the money nor time to earn a college degree. Some people may have needed to start working at a young age. It seems past generations were more willing to look past formal education and seemed more concerned about placing the right people into the right jobs/careers. Some people were just born to do certain jobs/careers but a lack of formal education stops them from being able to fulfill that purpose.

Some people find ways to fulfill their purpose anyway but are not credited nor compensated appropriately or in the same way a degree holder would be. I think some employers might be overlooking the best talent and the best person for the job simply because they refuse to consider the idea that the best person for the job might not have a degree nor a lot of formal education (I think the movie “Larry Crowne” and “The Pursuit of Happiness” highlights this point well-some people without degrees are the best person for the job).

Why does the current world seem to be so hung up on degrees and which school the degree came from?Not everyone can afford college, and not everyone learns in the same way (a lecture setting). Some people learn best by hand’s on, a mentor, or by a combination of lectures and hand’s on. Some people are not great students, but are excellent workers. Do you think if people were willing to look past formal education, and think outside the box, jobs/careers would be filled with people that are meant for that position? Would workplace conflict be reduced if an entire workplace was doing work they were born to do? Would people be happier in their jobs if they were able to do what they were born to do? There have been degree holders that seemed to be in the wrong job/career for their skills, knowledge, and personality. Also, time and experience can change a person, or people may want to pursue new interests….should they have to pay to get another degree every time they want a new experience? Is there such a thing as economic and educational discrimination and is it legal?

Signed, See Talent Everywhere

Dear See Talent Everywhere:

Yes, there is discrimination in hiring based on educational credentials and it is not illegal. Supposedly tests for job applicants are supposed to pertain to job-specific skills and qualification. But I doubt that any law firm could win a case of employer discrimination against a Larry Crowne in favor of one with Crowne’s qualities but with more education. We are not a legal firm; therefore, I recommend you also submit your question to an attorney site.

Let me submit a recent career description of a friend with a college degree who has been working for an aluminum company for six months. His experience answers your question better than can I. “Believe it or not, graduating with a degree in communications looks very well to an employer. I started with an entry level position and have already moved up the ladder in my first 6 months. The writing on a degree isn’t as important as people think. It’s the social skills that come along with it and communication majors tend to have those skills. Through my experiences, I have learned a lot, and every day I seem to learn more. I work with people of different ages and social standings and at times there is a gap formed because of this. When I work with someone older than me, it can be difficult because hard work got them to where they are, not education like my case. I also work with a lot of people from the inner city whom were never given the opportunity for education beyond high school. The most important thing I have learned is to put myself in their shoes. You have to respect the people you work with no matter what. People will have different views than you but you have to LISTEN to what they are saying and give it a chance. Networking has also been key for me. Don’t burn bridges because you never know who you may need to rely on.”

To be sure a few individuals are like Bill Gates, who dropped out of college and were amazingly successful, but not many. I welcome and empathize with your thoughts. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that doesn’t mean a plumber must graduate from college. I know they are far more important to where I live and work than are those of us with college degrees.

William Gorden