Learn by thinking AND doing

I was at a party the other day chatting to a second year media student who wanted to major in digital marketing. She seemed really passionate about social media and it’s potential to be a major communication channel… blah blah blah. Wanting to shift from the textbook Social Media pitch I popped the question: “So, what’s your blog called?” After an initial confused blank look she went on to explain that she can’t start one because she does’t have her degree yet and that she didn’t know enough yet. I didn’t understand. I still don’t.

I know I’m in a ‘unique’ position to be able to do a Real World Degree, but I still cannot understand why more people are not actively pursuing their passions in their spare time. Take the above example where this girl could have had 3 years of creating engaging, social media content behind her as well as her degree in Digital Marketing. Imagine how much more impressive her CV could be by merely practicing in her spare time what she is learning at varsity. Who knows, maybe she could have been working for herself by the time she has her degree.

This is a simple case where the barrier of entry is pretty low. But what if you look at a more intense field, say engineering? Some names that come to mind are those of Gates, Ellison, Brin and others who gave themselves a head-start by working on the side while at school or university. Even as a Civil Engineer Project Manager you would be far better off if you had actually spent a holiday or 2 working on a construction site. The same applies for a vet, teacher or a number of other fields.

I think the biggest mistake is that most people are trying to do it with a sense of entitlement. As with my Inbound Business Model I believe that the value of experience is heavily underrated by the young. Yet when you are looking to apply for your first job the most common reason for being turned down is lack of experience. Why not go out and get that experience? I have yet to come across a startup or an SME who would not be willing to take on someone willing to learn. Especially if they are not asking for money. If you approach it with the sole aim of trying to gain experience I think you will be surprised by what you get in return. I certainly have been.

It is the disparity between education and reality that puzzles me. It may be down to the fact that we are a very consumer driven society and that universities are so dependant on maintaining the importance of degrees that they undermine the most valuable asset in the workplace: experience. But for the life of me I cannot understand why more people are not investing time and experience to help them get the edge in the future.

What are you doing when your head is not in your books?