Burn the Certificates. Get a Skill.

A cousin of mine, recently graduated, got a job in a bank. We were all happy for her, and she was presumably excited. You know how it is – the romance of the first job. Holding that appointment letter in your hand, showing it to your parents. Your mom would offer laddoos to Ganeshji, relieved that her darling laddoo has now become a man. Dad gives you a nice speech about career management. And if you’re lucky, someone takes you shopping for new clothes. I presume my cousin had a similar, enthusiastic start – got new clothes, took the ladies special with much gusto, carried a tiffin, made new friends, bitched about her boss and then, six months later – quit.

 I’m sure many of you have heard similar stories. When I was in college, everyone joked about how IT guys changed their jobs faster than their underwear. I remember in both my workplaces, an average of two people quit almost every month. (One even had the creativity to cite “low haemoglobin” as the reason). That I, myself quit both those places in less than three months is a different matter. The important thing is – there is a new trend occurring here: The Quit Jobs Movement.

 I’m sure you’ve noticed this around your workplace too, and your friends’ workplaces. I won’t be stretching it too far if I say that almost half of the people who started at the company with you have quit, and it’s very likely that you’re part of that half.

 Back in my dad’s time, getting a job was big deal. REALLY big. BIG. If you passed out of college at one go, you were going to have a decent life. If you got a second class, your parents would be proud. If you got a first class, your whole building was proud. And well, a distinction was a ticket to the US. Okay, maybe not, but almost. Your marksheet  was all you needed to get a job; and once you got, you held on to it like your life depended upon it. Most of the time, you stuck with it for almost half of your working life, if not all of it. Don’t believe me? Ask your father how many companies he’s changed. Chances are you’ve changed more companies in 5 years than he did in his whole life.

 So what was so different back then? Did our parents really looooove their jobs? Meh. Hardly. Was it fear then, that kept them signing the muster, year after year? Well, yes, fear is a significant motivating factor. But heck, we live in a far more competitive, uncertain and expensive time now. Fear and anxiety are at an all time high. But that’s not stopping us from not turning up at work. Mind you, I didn’t say resigning. People don’t even resign anymore really – they just don’t turn up! So how is our generation becoming so, so….. so BOLD ? Well they’re not. What they’re becoming is BORED.

 Other than pay, position and prestige, a vital motivation for a job is how well you’re able to do your job. In fact, in the long run, it is THE MOST IMPORTANT motivator. Being able to do your job well on your own and knowing that you do it well goes a long way in keeping you engaged and interested in whatever it is you’re doing. This applies to everything, I mean EVERYTHING in life. If you’re able to do it well, you will enjoy it; if you enjoy it, you will get better at it; the better you get, the better you will do and the exhilarating cycle perpetuates.

 This is the simple reason our parents stuck with their jobs: They knew what to do, and most of the time, they did it well. In fact, this is the only reason why anyone sticks to any job. And a large reason for this, was that they were prepared for their jobs well. As a commerce student, your father studied Accounting. When he got a job, he actually sat at a desk and tallied a Profit & Loss Statement. He actually had to fill up the columns by himself and he knew what was debited from what and credited into what. Similarly, if your mom studied English literature, she became a professor of the subject. If they learnt short-hand, they became receptionists or ‘stenos’. Their education more or less prepared them for their jobs. We too learnt accounting as a commerce student. But then we got a job making presentations or doing cold calls. Unfortunately, our education too prepared us for our parent’s jobs.

 Like our parents, we are still tallying accounts, learning derivates, quoting Shakespeare and ‘by-hearting’ the Law of Diminishing Marginal Gains. Unfortunately, no office in the world can make any use of ANY of these things. Everything that we learnt in school is done by a computer. All we gotta do is a push a button. That’s it. And there’s only so much pushing of a button that you can do at one place. So you quit, and go to another. They give you Yellow buttons, or Red or Purple. Whatever. Eventually, all your working life comes down cursing your buttons, and envying someone else’s. But at the end of day – all you get are buttons. And well, that’s boring.

 Now, this isn’t going to be a tirade on our education system. That’s pointless. But even more pointless is our apathetic adherence to this pointlessness. In the real world, that certificate and those marks don’t mean squat. And yet, all throughout our academic life, all we do is obsess over them. First because our parents think so, then because you think so. In reality, those certificates are not worth the paper they’re printed on, unless your academic education is bestowing  you with a highly specialized skill – like doing a by-pass or a root canal. (And even that isn’t being taught so well these days).

 And that’s what it really comes down to – having a skill. Or a set of skills. Something you are good at and hopefully good enough that others will want to pay you for it. And since our excellent education system isn’t doing it, you’ll have to do it yourself. Equip yourself with a skill, and get good at it – because THAT’S what’s going to help you find and keep a job that’s more than a button – a job you will not want to quit.

 Most of my friends who are doing well in their jobs, enjoy them and aren’t complaining all the time are ones who learnt a skill while they were in college. Whether it was writing, editing videos, talking, dancing, playing an instrument, coding, designing, pickaskill – they practiced it extensively and got good at it. At some point of time, they even decided to get a certificate that said so, event though most of them didn’t need it. Most of them were self-taught, and continued to hone their skills even while at their job. Needless to say, they haven’t had to push a button one day in their life.

 So burn those certificates. Yes, even the one that gives you an MBA. Because as far as certificates go that one’s as useless as they could be. Not only does an MBA not teach you any skills, it actually programs you and encourages you to NOT LEARN anything in detail. It makes you fall in love with buttons. There’s a term for that kind of skill – Mediocrity. But since you’ve spent a lot of time and money on your certificates, keep it, but please, get a skill along with it.

My skill is writing. Even though my degree has nothing  to do with it, I kept writing and learning to write on the side, because I knew that’s the job I would be good at. And after college that’s the kind of job I got. A few months of office-time later, I figured out an even better way to work – one where I wouldn’t have to commute, listen to non-sense gossip, and worry about office politics. I switched to freelancing and working remotely. Today I work from my house, no more than 4-5 hours a day and get paid – solely and well – for my writing.

My husband studied physiotherapy. He’s a problem-solver and nothing makes him happier than fixing people. However, other than the permission to practice legally, his stint in med college gave him nothing else. He learnt all he needed to fix an aching muscle on his own. Patients come to him disappointed and hopeless, with 12-years worth of backaches and knee trouble and they are amazed at how quickly they see results. He works out of an independent clinic that’s footsteps away from our home, and even with practicing less than 6 hours a day, makes a neat little sweep.

Both me and my husband have never gotten more formal education than what was the bare necessity required to help us work our skills in peace. And so have a lot of people I’ve come to know over the years. They are extremely hard-working, focused, professional and happy with their jobs. They’re all people who realized that it’s not the certificate, but the satisfaction you feel at the end of a job well done.

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2 thoughts on “Burn the Certificates. Get a Skill.

  1. ” Yes, even the one that gives you an MBA. Because as far as certificates go that one’s as useless as they could be. Not only does an MBA not teach you any skills, it actually programs you and encourages you to NOT LEARN anything in detail. It makes you fall in love with buttons. There’s a term for that kind of skill – Mediocrity. But since you’ve spent a lot of time and money on your certificates, keep it, but please, get a skill along with it”

    I Beg to differ..MBA teaches you a lot of things, and the most important is to THINK. Its simple..”Apply logic to solve a problem” precisely like your husband, however problems here are “Business Problems”. The issue is that ‘We stop THINKING’, after our degrees. We don’t think why we get the degrees, rather what is the GOAL of the degree. The goal is to think, Think Logically, Think Rationally but no one actually emphasizes us to think. Now that’s the problem.

    • Thanks for reading and the comment as well. However, I beg to differ too 🙂
      You do not need an MBA to THINK. If thinking is what you’re after, do you really mean to tell me that you have give an entrance exam, sit in a classroom, spend 3 years of your life and 10 lac rupees in order to learn to do that? Does that make sense? No can can TEACH anyone to THINK. It doesn’t work that way. Thinking is a by-product of observation, of honest inquiry, of accepting reality and an of unflinching devotion to the truth and generally – of LIVING LIFE. It is the misconception that ‘an MBA teaches you to THINK’ that leads to people doing an MBA in the first place. It’s actually ironical, because the moment they hit upon this notion, they have already stopped thinking. The only thing an MBA teaches you is how to get a great pay package. And that too doesn’t necessarily work out for everyone. Take a look at any of history’s most influential people: scientists, philosophers, artists, musicians, writers, even businessmen. How many of them had an MBA?

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