Education and Experience: both benefit your career (and life!)

October 11, 2023

As a youth I lived in a small Saskatchewan farming community. It was so small that almost everyone I knew was employed directly or indirectly in the agriculture sector. That meant that I missed one important insight as I grew up – that there are thousands of ways to make a living in this country.

Additional life experience taught me that every job involves solving problems that simply aren’t covered in a classroom.

The key to professional success, I would learn, is to continue updating your skills, learning new ones, and exploring new fields while you are gaining experience. Make learning a life-long experience.

The key to happiness, I would learn, is to never let your self-worth be defined by your title, your role, or your salary. Developing a rich life outside of work is essential to long term happiness.

As you proceed through your career, or look to hire staff for your business, you will need to determine whether education or work experience will be more valuable. The ideal situation is to acquire both, as they are complementary skills.

A formal education provides a structured foundation, and a deep understanding of various topics. The credentials they provide can help get a foot in the door of your career path. And post-secondary institutions offer opportunities to network with people who can help you navigate that career path.

Experience provides both practical and soft skills. The practical skills will help you safely and efficiently tackle the job. That same experience will also develop you into the type of employee every business wants – an adaptable problem solver. And every business values a track record of success and accomplishments.

Soft skills help you position your communications in a manner that earns the respect of co-workers, management, customers, and suppliers.

Regardless of an employee’s role, a combination of education and real-life experience can create an ideal job candidate. The employee can then use those broad skills for advancement into management, or even a complete career change.

As I prepare to retire, I have learned that the best solution is to make further education a life-long learning experience. Once in the workforce, continue to work towards certifications, improved computer literacy, safety training and more.

There are many non-formal ways to become a lifelong learner:

  • Online courses through online academies.
  • Online courses provided by universities and tech schools.
  • Professional associations provide opportunities for learning, networking, and mentoring.
  • Mentorship from experienced individuals who can pass on learnings and help you avoid career pitfalls.
  • Webinars and seminars can provide a quick way to understand key points.
  • Peer learning by sharing ideas and experiences.
  • Self-study is easier than ever with the constantly expanding internet,
  • Communication training such as Dale Carnegie and Toastmasters will increase your confidence as well as your ability to communicate effectively.

And remember that there are thousands of ways to make a living. Choosing a career is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Your interests and priorities will change, and so too will the needs of your employer. Keep yourself open to new experiences, new skills and even new organizations.

-Allan Millham is a recently retired Marketing Manager