“It Goes Beyond a Degree” brings up a important considerations when we look at an individual to establish whether or not he or she will be an appropriate candidate for a position. Does he or she need a college education or work experience to succeed in the workplace, or is it more than that? A number of life experiences have given me insight into this question. First, I reflect back 20 years ago, when our son informed me that he chose not to go to college. I was aghast at the thought of him “flipping burgers” the rest of his life as the only way to a decent job was through a college education. Last year, after being named “East Coast Salesman of the Year in 2007” for selling over 4 million dollars in building supplies, I thanked him for proving me wrong. He loves his work and the owner of the company told him he was one of a handful of true salesmen.

A college education is wonderful, but only if the student can move from theory to practical application without believing that they have all the answers. As an Employee Assistance Professional (EDP) at General Motors, management made the decision to hire only individuals possessing a Bachelors degree. The new supervisors were bright, energetic, full of knowledge and often not an interpersonal bone in his or her body and entered a workplace with individuals 30 to 40 years older. As an EAP, I helped resolve personal issues that made it difficult for employees to work. The onset of these new supervisors brought a multitude of people to my office who had never struggled before. They felt disrespected and hated coming to work due to the interaction with the new supervisors. Another life experience gave me insight into a college education.I taught Juniors and Seniors at the University of Buffalo and was shocked at the level of commitment of many of the students that were to enter the workforce in the next year or two. They may complete the requirements for a college degree, but fail in other areas required to succeed in the workplace.

So what, in my opinion, does it take to succeed in the workplace? I started out many years ago to become a nurse. The brightest “A” student in our class did not really like people and although she was the brightest student in our class, I heard she left nursing after graduation. First, I do not want to sound like I am against a college education as I think it is a wonderful asset, but only if used as a supplement to other learning. I believe an individual needs to be in a position that meets their personality and one for which they have a passion. One of the most important skills and one not taught in school is communication. How does a person communicate with those with whom he or she works? Is the person able to work in teams and inspire collaboration? Does he or she know how to listen to others and help them to feel a part of the process? Is he or she sensitive to others needs? Does an individual posses a self-awareness of him or herself and how he or she interacts with others? Most importantly, does an individual continue to improve skills and work to develop honest, trusting relationships with others in the workplace. I believe it is in assessing the whole package that one can ascertain whether or not an individual is the right fit and will succeed in the workplace.