Monday Hustle: Why You Don't Need A Degree To Be Fucking Amazing At What You Do

Monday Hustle: Why You Don't Need A Degree To Be Fucking Amazing At What You Do

Secondary schools and sixth forms have a hidden agenda that either makes them or breaks them in the eyes of Ofsted: how many pupils apply for (and consequently attend) university. As the number of acceptances rise every August (a.k.a results season), teachers alike dance with joy that they have passed the secret test.

The key problem that I've recognised now that my time at school is long gone is the lack of options; 17 year olds suddenly have a year to choose the rest of their life. That’s what school makes it sound like, anyway. You’ve spent the last 13 years asking a teacher if you are allowed to go to the toilet, and now you have to decide what subject to study, if you actually like the subject, if you will move away or stay at home, where the nearest student bars are in comparison to your student digs, and how the hell you're gonna pay for it. Decisions, decisions.

But what about those who don't wish to pursue a degree? They aren't even considered in the end-of-year reports because further education, to schools, is the only thing that could look good to the likes of Ofsted. Those who opt out of the whole uni thing are assumed to either go to college to study a vocational course (nothing wrong with that), or to ask their dad for a job at his firm (also, nothing wrong with that). They shake their head at uni and suddenly a school couldn't really give a crap about their potential.

Another statistic you'll never find in these kinds of reports is the number of ex-students who attended university, but dropped out before graduating because they either didn't like the subject or simply decided that university wasn't for them. This happens to many students, who decide to change their path, or things just don't work out for them.

The issue is that it is assumed that all students aspire to university to ‘better their eduction’ or to 'get all the good jobs’. But what happens when suddenly, it's three years later, you're jobless, you've moved back home and have to register with Jobseekers because you're competing with thousands of other graduates? And as for that old school friend who dropped out in first year? They’ve just been promoted in a job you didn’t even know existed, like a tree surgeon, an operation manager at an insurance company or a taster at Cadbury World.

Many of the interesting jobs are not obvious in the prospectuses thrown at you. A lot of the time, it takes the risk of not going to uni, using the summer to research and apply for jobs and apprenticeships, and land on your feet with a career years later. It’s okay to start at the bottom and work your way up. It’s also okay to go to uni and get a degree, like I did. But nowadays some companies don't care about what subject you studied for three years and got yourself into debt for, only that you have the capacity and willingness to be trained and to learn. And to have those skills you don't need to spend £50,000 on a piece of paper with your name on it.

Let me reiterate the title: you do not need a degree to be fucking amazing at what you do, regardless of what schools try to teach us. Listen to what you want and not what the teachers are trying to convince you to do - some of them are biased anyway. The best teachers will tell you to do what you need to do, even if that means sweeping floors to make ends meet for a while. Maintain your faith because everyone has a lightbulb moment; before you know it your career path is as shiny and yellow in front of you as the road to Oz. 

My advice would be to roll with the opportunities and the punches, whatever comes your way. Sometimes the job that you find easy will get you noticed and you'll be given more challenging work that plays to your strengths. Sometimes you'll have that million-pound idea sitting on the toilet and create your own start-up business. Sometimes you'll realise that you could make a living from your hobby and it opens the doors to more.

Employers aren’t looking for a piece of paper. Employers are looking for your enthusiasm to take responsibility over your career, plus your inclination to pursue knowledge. Go and show them what you can do, with or without a degree.

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