Articles, Blog

55 The importance of education

February 14, 2020

Graham Clark
is a senior lecturer in Operations Management at
Cranfield School of Management. He is talking about the importance
of education for a successful career. Why do people take MBAs
during their career? There are a number of reasons
why people take an MBA. The economists would say
it’s all about money, so most people
want to get an uplift in salary, if only to pay for the MBA Degree,
which is not cheap. On the other hand, I think
a lot of people will take an MBA because they want to get
an acceleration in their career, they don’t necessarily
want to change jobs, but they want
to get on faster. Others very clearly want to
become General Managers and an MBA allows people
to get an overview of all the business disciplines
within a year or within two years, so again
it’s an accelerated progression. And for still others
it’s about choice. What do I want to do? I’m not going to be confined
by where I came from. So it’s about career choice,
maybe a bit later on in their careers. What do employers expect
from job applicants these days and does it depend
on the industry? I think it depends
not so much on the industry, though it depends
on the company. So some companies
have very clear procedures that they will only recruit people
with a certain kind of qualification: an MSc or an MBA or a Chartered
Accountancy, whatever it might be. And in those kind of companies
then you need to know what the hurdles are in order to get
even an interview. Other companies
within the same sector may say, Well, actually, I’m really
looking at an individual, I’m looking at their desire to work
for us, and may give people a chance, even though the qualifications
aren’t always there. Though there are some sectors,
some industry sectors which, I think, do tend to prefer their people
with qualifications in their area. So for example, retail
organizations tend to recruit people who have
retail qualifications, people in the hotel sector
also tend to recruit people who have hotel
qualifications. But it really does depend,
I think, a lot upon the individual
organization as much as the sector. In your opinion, what is the best
path to a successful career, a strong educational background
or working your way up? I’m afraid I am going to give
the academic answer: It depends. I think
for some people they know almost straight away
what they want to do with their life. They’ve got a business idea,
a Richard Branson or an Alan Sugar, these are the sort of people
that know they want to get into wheeling and dealing
and they’re there straight away. Others,
they’re not so sure and one of the advantages of
a formal business qualification, in particular, it allows
people to really think about, so what
do they want to do, and gives them that start
which maybe they don’t have. So I think the other thing
I want to say is that the best leaders often have taken time
to really think about what they need to do, and again formal education
may help with that. Can you think of someone who has succeeded
in business without a formal education? Well, I suppose one of the world’s
richest men is Bill Gates. Bill Gates actually did start at Harvard,
but he dropped out, I think, after the first year, so I’m not sure that
really counts as a formal education. But he had a passion and
a business idea and, of course, that’s worked
really well for him. Can you think of someone
who wouldn’t have succeeded in business without
a formal education? One of the people in my mind
is a guy called Andy Harrison, who until recently
was CEO of easyJet. And if you look at Andy’s career
post doing an MBA, he became a consultant and then
worked for a number of organizations before becoming
CEO of easyJet. And what Andy would say
is that the MBA gave him, what he called,
the jargon-busting guide. So although he’s not an accountant,
he knows how to speak to accountants, although he’s not a marketeer,
he knows how to talk to marketeers, and the MBA did that for him,
and it also allowed him to get past the first
hurdle in his career. Post that, it’s all down
to his determination and it’s all down to his clarity of goals,
but there’s no doubt that the… the business qualification gave him
the first step on… on the ladder.

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