I wanted to build upon Anne’s post last week regarding human development and the importance of a sound education system. I found her post right on point, especially because I just finished reading Stop Stealing Dreams (what is school for) by Seth Godin (you can download it for free here).
I am most familiar with Seth from his books and blogs on marketing. However, this work was slightly different. In Stop Stealing Dreams, Seth talks about America’s education system and how it is completely outdated. He states that we are not educating people to function in the new economy but for the manufacturing-focused economy of the past.
I found this interesting, especially because I can relate. Commonly in my adult life I have felt like I wasn’t educated or trained to handle the tasks that professionals face on a daily basis. These are things that were overlooked in my K-12 education. I don’t once remember a teacher saying, “Here is how to manage a project, work in a team, or handle a difficult personality.” Perhaps I was sick that day. College helped some, but it didn’t prepare me for what I faced outside of the Ivory Tower.
I remember my first job out of school was working as part of a four-person production team. We created hardbound visitor guides that were placed in hotel rooms. Revenue was based on ad sales. At one point our team was producing 16 books a year. Did my education prepare me for the pressures of working with three other people with personalities different from my own? Was I prepared for the stressors of working under extreme deadlines? Did I feel comfortable reaching out to customers regarding their ads? The answer to all of these questions was a resounding no, but I had no choice but to figure it out. After a lot of trial, error, and learning through experience, I found the answers to these questions. I realized that I had left school without the key skills needed (communication, leadership, teamwork) to succeed.
We keep talking about how the strategic skills are what really matter, skills like communication, leadership, and teamwork. These are the skills that are needed in this new economy. Very few of us head to a plant and put widgets together. Which, according to Seth, the old educational system was designed to teach us. We are now constantly connected, thrown together into different situations, and are expected to make things happen. Most of these situations don’t have a rule book. There are no rules. They are unique to the transformative economy we find ourselves in. We either sink or swim. The only skills that are going to save us are those strategic skills. But how do we get these new skills if our educational system is focused on us sitting in lectures and completing assignments home alone. Isn’t it better to work in a group and combine the collective knowledge of the team towards a problem?
Developing these skills is now falling to companies and individuals. Organizations are struggling to find talented individuals to fill their teams, and employees are struggling to find their place. Perhaps it is time to look at the beginning instead of the end.
I lucked out as my love of learning and excellent mentors have helped me over these hurdles. However, life is a marathon not a sprint. There is plenty I still need to learn. I just need to stay flexible and push myself to keep growing.
Have you faced these same issues in your professional life? If so, how did you grow professionally?