My number one beef with modern education is that it values knowledge over skills.
I know, I’m starting to sound like I’m some anti-education weirdo.
That’s not the case at all. In fact, you can get a better idea of how important I believe knowledge is by reading the following posts:
- What Fitness Taught Me About Life
- Master the Basics
- Treat Your Brain Like a Muscle
- My Experience With Cognitive Enhancement (A Guide to Smart Drugs)
- I Want to Do “X”, but Don’t I Don’t Know How
- The Only Skill You NEED From College (Plus 10 Learning Techniques Ranked by Effectiveness)
But the thing is, skills are more valuable in the free market than knowledge.
Just ask Johnny Knowitall how much he makes from his knowledge…
I know there are exceptions, but look closely – even highly paid PhD’s who only work with theory have developed a skill set around acquiring and sharing knowledge. Which leads us to the logical conclusion that both skills and knowledge are required for mastery.
A quick Google search reveals that I’m not alone in my sentiments towards education. Two Gallup surveys published last year reveal a stark contrast between how educators believe they are preparing students for the workforce, and how prepared business leaders believe recent graduates to be.
Only 14% of Americans and 11% of business leaders “strongly agree that graduates have the necessary skills and competencies to succeed in the workplace.”
On the other hand, an overwhelming 96% of academic officers believe that they’re effectively preparing students for success in the workplace.
How can this be? Well, there are several factors.
One thing I learned through studying economics is how easy it is to slant statistics to favor a particular narrative.
For example, the majority of Americans still believe that divorce rates are over 50% and that simply isn’t true – and hasn’t been for a while.
Another factor is that survey statistics are based on opinions and presented as cold hard facts.
Business leaders are always going to believe that a significant percentage of college grads aren’t prepared for the workforce.
Why, you ask?
Because, as we know, the majority of people are complacent – they always have been and always will be. Business leaders are a part of the minority that aren’t. Their view of the world is skewed.
Then you have to consider the opinion of academic officers. Of course they are going to say they are doing a great job preparing students for the workforce. After all, they are in the business of selling education and if you haven’t noticed – business is booming.
Based on my experience and beliefs I am more inclined to agree with the business leaders. For whatever it’s worth.
Either way, I’m going to share my case for why you should acquire both. But I’m going to emphasize skills more than knowledge in this post. I’ve already written some great articles on acquiring knowledge and using it to change your life. (Listed above)
Do You Know Too Much?
I’m no historian, and I’m still relatively young at 27, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there has never been a more advantageous time to leverage your skills for growth and prosperity.
But before diving into that, I’m going to share a story to give you an idea of where I’m coming from.
Growing up I was labeled by teachers as “gifted” because I was a naturally quick learner. I was selected to participate in programs for gifted children. In these programs they would give us challenges to solve without providing any information for us. They would simply provide rules for how we could or couldn’t accomplish the task.
Then they would watch and observe how we went about it.
I realized pretty quickly that I could learn anything I wanted without too much effort. That sounds great, right? It is, except that actually created a problem for me. I could learn how to do something so easily that it gave me the satisfaction of actually doing it.
To make matters worse, I would give advice to people and when they put it into action they got great results. They got results from ideas that I came up with completely on my own, just by learning about that particular thing. The problem is that, many times I couldn’t do that thing myself.
I knew how to do it, but I couldn’t do it.
Personally, I think that’s pretty shallow. Not in the sense of materialism or narcissism, but in terms of the depth of understanding a person has.
I knew too much.
Yes, that’s possible and yes it can be a bad thing.
It was a quality that I despised in myself. So I set out to change it.
I had just graduated high school when I made this transition.
I decided that when it came to a particular skill, task, or activity that I would only speak from knowledge AND experience. If I happen to know a lot about something, I will typically keep it to myself until I can prove it.
Unless it’s a subject or idea that doesn’t involve a particular skill…
I see this a lot with younger people.
The younger generations have access to so much more information than even I did, and especially more than my parents or theirs. At the same time, too many younger people are struggling with their lack of a real skill set.
This is something I can relate to and would like to help change.
It’s an easy trap for kids to fall for these days. They have access to so much high quality information online that they actually know a lot more than we did at their age.
But the downside of being online is that it’s a world of facade.
What I see a lot are these kids who spend all of their time consuming information online. They get to a point where they honestly have a decent understanding of how things work. And they have platforms that allow them to share their findings and to communicate with experts.
But it’s all online. No one sees them in real life. Which allows them to enter conversations that simply wouldn’t be possible in real life.
In real life, you have to earn your way into a conversation with experts and leaders. You’re expected to bring something to the table, as well.
You also have consequences in real life. It’s easy to troll people online, but in real life it’s much harder to troll someone.
It’s easy to learn enough to converse with experts online about something, when they can’t look into your eyes and hear the tone in your voice.
And because of all of this, I’m seeing more and more kids mistake their knowledge for experience.
But if you look at the best jobs available, they don’t care much about knowledge, outside of you having a bachelor’s degree. They want someone who has 5-10 years of experience.
How do you get experience?
By developing and practicing skills.
Unfortunately, formal education does very little in terms of teaching real skills. I believe this plays a large role in why many young people experience this disconnect.
The truth is, the things we all want in life are more easily attained with a strong skill set than a knowledge base. The catch-22 here is that developing a strong skill set requires a foundation of knowledge.
Why You Need a Strong Skill Set
There’s never been a better time to leverage your skills for personal prosperity.
Demand is high and your competition is low.
There’s a Shortage of Skilled Workers
Despite the strong economic rebound, companies are facing hindered growth from a lack of skilled workers.
You don’t need to read The Wall Street Journal to know that.
Just ask your employer. Good help is harder than ever to find.
I always found it surprising at how easy it was to stand out at a job, because the average employee is lazy and incompetent.
My businesses so far have all been one-man operations and joint ventures, so I haven’t had to hire anyone.
I have had people ask for a job. So far, they have all been people I wouldn’t consider hiring.
But some of my friends own businesses with employees and finding good employees has been their number one problem.
And according to that WSJ article I linked above, 30% of businesses report that a lack of qualified workers is a major barrier to their growth.
Think about that. Nearly a third of businesses could be expanding and making more money, but they can’t because they lack skilled employees.
So if you are a skilled worker, then you know that nearly a third of businesses don’t only want you, but they desperately need you.
In fact, enrollment in trade schools is surging right now as a response. This is happening for several reasons:
- The cost of university education is rising at a disproportionate rate to the increase in wages (learn more here)
- The market is saturated with unskilled bachelor degree holders
- Trade schools focus more on teaching skills than teaching theory. Specific skills for specific jobs. So graduates from trade schools are finding jobs faster than graduates from universities, in general.
I’m not advocating trade school over university, I’m just providing the full perspective.
Having a proven skill set is the best way to get the job you want. Well, a strong skill set for your industry and a developed skill of networking are the two most important things you can have to get your dream job.
The best jobs will never be listed on a job site or in the paper – they are filled by people who get introduced through a mutual party and have a proven track record. Employers DREAM of finding a person who is good at what they do and comes recommended by someone they trust.
You can be that person.
Take Advantage the Sharing Economy Revolution
If you’ve been paying attention over the last several years you have noticed a revolution starting through something called the sharing economy.
Companies like Uber, AirBnB, and TaskRabbit are all great examples. But I would say that traditional freelance communities like Elance and oDesk have played a major role in this. They just aren’t as new and sexy, so they don’t get brought up as much.
What these companies have done is allow average people to trade their skills for money.
Most Uber and Lyft drivers aren’t full-time cab drivers. They have normal jobs and drive people around in the evening or on weekends for extra money.
AirBnB allows people to easily become a landlord by renting out their spare bedroom or vacation home for money. One thing a lot of people do is rent out their place while they travel, which pays towards their traveling.
What really excites me is seeing companies like TaskRabbit starting to catch on. These services provide a much wider variety of what people can provide for money. Instead of being limited to cab driver or landlord, you could sell your services as a math tutor or guitar instructor.
I love this because it allows people to make money from their hobbies and it gives people a platform to learn the basic skills for entrepreneurship.
I’m actually doing some consulting and copywriting for a tech startup entering this space. I can’t say the name or anything yet until they launch, but I can promise you that we’re going to see an explosion of companies building the sharing economy.
I have a personal theory that eventually there will be more self-employed workers in the labor force than employed workers. Companies will be smaller and more flexible. Everyone will be much more specialized, allowing them to only focus on what they’re good at and pay others to do the rest, without having to necessarily hire them. This will lead to less traditional jobs and at first, more competition for those jobs. Those who aren’t able to adapt will be at a big disadvantage.
That’s why I’m advocating that you develop a skill set and start taking an entrepreneurial approach to what you do NOW. That way you’re ahead of the curve.
Figure out what you enjoy and what you’re good at. Develop those skills and learn how to market yourself.
As James Altucher says, Choose Yourself. Which, by the way, is a must-read for anyone with aspirations of self-employment.
Carry yourself with the professionalism of a business.
Don’t apply to work for a company, apply to work with a company.
Become an asset and an ally.
The combination of low supply and high demand for skilled workers presents an opportunity for young adults to become successful at a much quicker rate.
It’s the individual’s responsibility to learn the things that school doesn’t teach you.
A college degree no longer guarantees a job or a competitive salary. Those days are gone.
Employers are looking for the total package. They know that schools aren’t providing you with the skills you need. That’s why taking the time to develop those skills on your own will make you stand out among your peers and grant you more opportunities.
It’s never been easier to develop a skill and quickly make money from that skill.
You won’t develop those skills by reading, though. You do so by practicing.
Find a skill or set of skills that meet the following criteria:
- People will pay money for it
- You enjoy it
- You are, or can be, good at it
Then you just keep practicing until you get good enough to charge someone for it.
From there, you get paid to practice. As you get better, you get paid more.
It’s that simple and anyone can do it.
So what are you waiting for?
Until Next Time,
What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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