My Schooling Versus My Job Skills Provenance

I keep grinding my ax in my blog pieces on the efficacy of “unschooling” and informal learning versus what a person learns in more formal educational settings. Though I acknowledge the primacy of formal education and training in some fields – like science, engineering, medicine and law – I also strongly believe (based on my own experience) that a person can develop technical and professional skills (for many types and aspects of business) mostly outside of formal schooling.

Neither of my now young-adult kids has had formal schooling beyond ninth grade, but both are developing significant business and technical skills, and can present themselves as sophisticated, well-spoken and well-written people. I on the other hand, have had over twenty years of formal education, but if I really analyze where my work skills come from, they were mostly acquired outside of school. If truth be told, I suspect I personally could have done quite well without any formal education (other than having those two college degrees on my resume to help me get my first and possibly some of my subsequent jobs where I did not have a personal connection).

It was an intriguing and thought provoking exercise for me to do an analysis of my significant job skills and where essentially they were acquired along the way (plus basic skills that were the building blocks to those more advanced ones). I have twelve years of K-12 education (I skipped kindergarten) and approximately nine years of college leading to two degrees – a BA in Speech and a BS in Computer Science. Given all that formal education, it is interesting how most of what I consider my work related skills (that motivate the people I do work for to pay me) were acquired outside of school.

My first degree was basically a liberal arts education, which one could argue contributed to making me more “well rounded” and culturally sophisticated. It did include some more practical TV and film production classes, but honestly I did not leverage them much in the few film production jobs I got before I gave up on that industry.

My second degree was a technical one, all about skills in the computer science and electrical engineering fields. Given that, it was mostly focused on training me to be an electrical engineer or a computer programmer in the aerospace industry, which was big in Southern California in the first of the 1980s when I got my degree. I never ended up working in that industry because IT jobs in the “business” sector paid much better.

Now admittedly, I may be somewhat of a unique case, and other people may not have had such rich experience outside of their formal school settings. But given all that, here are what I consider to be the job related skills I learned at school…

1. Basic reading skills – Elementary school
2. Basic arithmetic skills – Elementary school and junior high
3. Basic writing skills – Elementary school
4. Set theory – Junior high math class
5. Basic public speaking – High school and college classes
6. Business process modeling – College class
7. Basic structured computer programming – College classes
8. Economics – College class
9. Basic technical writing – College class

Now here are the job related skills that I learned outside of formal educational settings in my “regular life” or in some cases “on the job”…

1. Basic design and implementation – Designing sets and lights for theater productions and then building those sets and setting those lights
2. Basic teamwork – Playing on Little League baseball teams and pick-up games
3. Collaboration on projects – Mounting theatrical productions and playing military simulations with several players on each side
4. Basic systems theory and process modeling – Playing sophisticated military simulation board games
5. Basic strategy and logistics – Playing sophisticated military simulation board games
6. Time and critical path management – Working as a short-order cook
7. Persuasive writing – Writing volunteer and money appeals for community groups plus writing this blog
8. Supervisory skills – Coordinating volunteers for a community organization
9. Data analysis and management skills – Maintaining prospect, donor and volunteer lists and coordinating direct mail campaign for a community organization and working as a systems and business analyst
10. Budgeting skills – Budgeting campaigns for a community organization
11. Advanced persuasive skills – Doing TV and radio interviews for a community organization
12. Leadership skills – Coordinating various campaign events for community organization and as a lay leader for a religious congregation
13. Meeting and large group facilitation skills – As Board President and lay leader of a religious congregation and as business analyst and release manager
14. Advanced public speaking skills – Leading worship services for a religious congregation
15. Business process analysis and design – Working as a systems and business analyst
16. Basic accounting – Working as a systems analyst
17. Advanced technical writing – Working as a systems and business analyst
18. Web site management – Working as a business analyst
19. Advanced visual presentation skills – Working as a business analyst
20. Organizational development – Participating in the creation of several non-profit organizations
21. Basic counseling – Working as a volunteer youth advisor for my religious congregation and learning from my partner as she studied to be a marriage and Family Therapist
22. Business process re-engineering – From self-initiated reading along with work as a systems and business analyst
23. Basic health care industry business practices – Working as systems and business analyst in the industry
24. Basic insurance industry business practices – Working as a business analyst in the industry
25. Systems analysis – Learned on the job as my computer programming work transitioned to systems analysis

I would be curious to get a summary from others doing a comparable analysis.

It is interesting again that the biggest thing I think I got out of my nine years of college was to be able to put those two degrees on my resume, which probably got me jobs with employers where I did not have a personal connection (say a recommendation from a friend, family member or past supervisor) and their bureaucratic hiring rules required such degrees.

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