Workplace Trends: The Evolution of Experience vs Qualifications
Whether you whisper it quietly or shout it from the rooftops, it’s pretty clear to anyone in the workplace that times have changed. What was once a traditional career path of obtaining a qualification and climbing the corporate ladder has now undergone a significant evolution.
Long gone are the days when if you asked someone their work history, they’d tell you they started at an entry level position and worked their way up the ranks for the next 30 years or so. And then retired!
Instead, many modern-day professionals are now gaining experience in a range of fields and industries – sometimes changing industries entirely several times over. As a result, career paths are far less predictable and much more flexible than they used to be.
This transition has been driven by several factors, including technological advancements, changes in organisational structures, and a shift to a more dynamic and globalised economy. Although the worst of COVID is now hopefully in the rear-view mirror, the pandemic will have long-lasting effects not only on career pathways, but also on the sort of lifestyle choices we make.
One report by global management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company found “the pandemic accelerated existing trends in remote work, e-commerce, and automation, with up to 25 per cent more workers than previously estimated potentially needing to switch occupations”.
As a result of these developments, modern-day professionals are now encouraged to seek a diverse range of experiences, develop new skills, and expand their networks to remain competitive and relevant within their respective fields.
Taking The Time To Find My Own Career Path
As Hunt & Hawk’s Senior Project Manager, my own pathway reflects the road less travelled in terms of a career trajectory. When I left high school, I didn’t have a clear direction of where I wanted my career to take me, and my first job after moving to the big (and scary) city from a small country town was as a cashier at a 7-11 convenience store.
Many well-wishers encouraged me to just “just enroll in anything”, but the idea of getting myself into debt taking a course I wasn’t passionate about didn’t hold much appeal to me. I chose instead to take my time and open myself up to new opportunities that I never would have experienced if I was stuck in a lecture room trying to pass a course I had zero interest in!
Slowly but surely, I climbed the ranks from Receptionist at a logistics company, to Accounts Assistant. Then I went from Accounts Assistant to Accounts Payable Officer, and eventually became a Personal Assistant at a global advertising agency.
It wasn’t until 2011 – a full decade after finishing high school – that I made my big move and I decided to change careers completely. I may have been one of the oldest students in my Certificate III Graphic Design class, but I was – and still am – immensely passionate about the world of design.
A few hands-on design roles later, I was named the Head of Creative at a major advertising agency in 2019. This was a significant milestone for my career, so how did I get there? I didn’t have a handful of degrees or 35 years of experience under my belt.
What I did have was years and years worth of drive to seek out cross-functional experiences and develop skills that could span multiple departments and industries. All the roles and responsibilities I’ve fulfilled have given me a broader understanding of organisational operations and challenges.
I’ve now worked in a diverse range of environments and situations that helped develop my skills in problem-solving, analytical reasoning, critical thinking, leadership and adaptability. And I’ve learnt so much more than I feel like I would have if I’d just buried my head in a textbook!
Experience vs Qualifications: Why They Both Make A Difference Now
While academic qualifications will always be highly regarded – particularly in technical fields – the shift towards modern workplaces valuing hard-won experience as highly as a piece of paper is a welcome change for those who are not necessarily academically inclined.
The perceived value of aggregated professional experience has also led to a shift in the way many workplaces view employee retention. In the past, companies would often promote employees based on the length of their tenure and service to the organisation.
Today, such an approach is far less prevalent, as many workplaces now recognise the value of employees bringing with them a diverse range of experiences and a desire to continually develop new skills. The accessibility of online and other professional training courses, featuring an ever-expanding range of subject matter, has created a synergy between gaining experience on the job and earning qualifications simultaneously. It’s no longer a case of one or the other.
If my own career pathway has taught me anything, it’s that there’s no simple equation that grants you instant success in your career. The right attitude, passion, and continuous investment – not only in yourself but also in your skills – is the real key to building your career and finding success. Whether those skills come from a university lecture hall or from on-the-job experience is far less important than it once was.
What I will say is that I’m grateful for the range of professional experiences that I’ve had, because they’ve all helped me be a better project manager. I can communicate effectively with team members and clients, I’ve mastered a range of project management tools, and I know how to handle deadlines. I can even help out with design in a pinch!
We’re always looking for new and improved ways of working at Hunt & Hawk, and we’re all about delivering quality outcomes to our clients. If you’d like to learn more about our full range of services, simply drop us a line at email@example.com and let’s set up a time to chat.