How much does a professional education matter? If people are now able to generate professional-looking content, give professional-looking services, gain traction in the marketplace, or become an influencer in their chosen field, does it really matter what their background is? The answer is no - but also yes. Today we are going to take a look at the concept of pre- vs pro- and the weight it holds in modern working relationships.
Traditional vs non-traditional learning - Pros and Cons
“In an age of unpredictable job evolution, it is hard to argue that the knowledge acquisition historically associated with a university degree is still relevant.”
- Does Higher Education Still Prepare People for Jobs?, Harvard Business Review
Is having a degree still a pre-requisite in a job? Will it make you more employable? And for employers - is it actually necessary for hiring talent? There is no denying that for some professions, a university education is still essential. Budding doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers still need to put in the hard yards investing in their higher education.
But for other professions which now evolve and change at a rapid pace, like marketing, software development, and executive coaching, by the time you’re finished a 4-year degree much of the knowledge that you’ve received may well be out of date. University courses are not known for their courseware agility, after all. This makes the recent graduate in these types of fields far less valuable for a workplace than someone who has completed ad-hoc mini-courses across the same timeframe.
The rise of the pre- instead of the pro-
Wily people with a sense of entrepreneurship about them are realising that higher education isn’t always the key to success. A good idea, motivation, some self-sought ‘middle-skills’, and the right people around them (plus, often some cash-flow) can be enough to become successful in their given field.
Middle-skills and the self-made market
“The middle-skills pathway is comprised of workers with more education than a high school diploma, but less than a BA including, certificates, certifications, licenses, associate’s degrees, and some college coursework.”
- Three Educational Pathways to Good Jobs, Georgetown University
Middle-skill jobs are those which require only micro-credentials to gain sufficient skilling within a field. This might be a nanodegree, bootcamp, platform certification, or other alternative learning paths - or a combination of stackable micro-credentials.
The rise in what’s termed ‘middle-skills’ jobs that are self-made is easy to see. An old school friend may now be a life coach after completing some training courses, with a range of happy clients. Your colleague might be doing some video editing as a side-hustle after teaching himself Adobe Premiere. Another friend is flipping websites after learning SEO. Another changed careers after a coding bootcamp. There is no need for these types of roles to require higher education. While it doesn’t hurt, it’s certainly not a requirement.
Prosumers: “individuals who consume and produce value, either for self-consumption or consumption by others, and can receive implicit or explicit incentives from organizations involved in the exchange” - Prosumers in times of crisis: Definition, archetypes and implications, Journal of Service Management
What’s termed prosumers is a range of people who are both consumers of a product or service as well as a generator of value for the product or service they use.
For instance, YouTubers can earn their income from YouTube monetization (among other forms of incidentary income such as sponsorships), as well as draw people to YouTube, hence generating income for YouTube itself via advertisers.
The danger in pres vs pros
We do also see some danger in certain types of pre- behaviours. Bloggers who come across as journalists who don’t know how to review sources accurately and thus spread disinformation as fact. Self-taught health gurus who may be spruiking dangerous diets. If you are in certain pre- fields you need to ensure you are following behaviours and practices that professional education in these fields instills - or risk the wrath of authorities or your clients.
New tools and technologies that can help you become a pro
While a university education isn’t necessary for everyone, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t able to up your pre- game to the professional level. Continual education and training will give you the edge, along with the right tools and technologies to ensure your presentation to clients is immaculate.
Wippli is one of those helper tools that will bridge the gap between pre- and pro-, to give the slick presentation and professional coordination that makes you stand out from the competition. Not only is it a productivity enhancer, it shows your personal dedication to always being top of your game - which is a win whether you’re a pre- or a pro-.
Jay’s Story - A Note From the Creator of Wippli
Is higher education important? Well, I'm a seasoned creative designer with a Masters in Design Innovation from De Montfort University, a Masters in Marketing from Roehampton University, and an MBA from Macquarie University Business School - plus Executive Education in Digital Strategy and Brand Strategy from Harvard Business School and Wharton. Now that’s a lot of higher education, looking back on things.
Did all this education pay off? In my opinion, yes and no. I don't remember design education being critical for creative gigs, which are driven mainly through networking and portfolio work, i.e. showing your skills in practice. Still, I can spot it when a design is not sufficiently pro. The marketing studies I’ve done have given me a great understanding of how to align strategy with execution.
I would however say that my business education combined has given me plenty of the knowledge, frameworks and confidence necessary for me to workaround Wippli's business complexities.
Would I do it all again? I'd say yes, definitely. But for me, I pass through my educational journey feeding a hunger for knowledge, not for that badge to put on my resume. Friends ask why I don’t seek out that knowledge in books or online, but for me, the answer is that I need the academic structure, as my attention span is quite low. Everyone has preferred methods of acquiring knowledge. It’s up to you to seek out the educational resources that suit your preferred style of learning in line with your personal and professional aspirations.
I’ve created Wippli to help everyone to do a great job in their chosen field, working smoothly from anywhere, where we all can be and look like pros.