Podcast: Education + Experience = ???
You’re listening to the Uptown Bourgeois podcast.
I’m your host, Jefferey Spivey.
Let’s be weird, snobby, and intellectual together.
Thanks for being patient while I settled into my new life in Arkansas.
Hope you missed me.
This week, I want to talk about EXPERIENCE AND EDUCATION.
That was Daymond John, Shark Tank investor, globally recognized entrepreneur, motivational speaker. By all means, he’s an expert on success. But he didn’t follow a conventional path to get there.
In a March CNBC article, he spoke about the benefits of attending college and explained that the majority of his staff is college-educated. But John himself did not attend college, due to monetary constraints. He had to chase his dream with hard work and perseverance.
Which begs the question…how essential is your education to your career success?
Now, I’m college-educated. I have a B.A. in communication, with a specialization in print and broadcast journalism. It was through my education that I was able to intern at Dateline NBC and Jacksonville’s First Coast News (and eventually determine that I didn’t want to be a journalist). College also equipped me with necessary skills for critical thinking and basic survival, and I made some incredible lifelong friends that I’m still connected to today.
There’s no doubt in my mind, if you have a way to attend college, by all means, do it. But where I start to lose my faith is in grad school.
That was a clip from AJ+, questioning if grad school is really worth it.
You know, I really wonder.
Personally, back around 2009, I applied to Baruch College’s business school to earn my MBA. It was a curious decision for me. I’m a writer through and through, and I most certainly don’t need a master’s in business to hone my skills.
I caved to pressure. Pressure from my dad to earn a degree that’s associated with honor. There was a promise of making big money once I finished. Increasing pressure from society, because the value of a college degree just wasn’t the same. A master’s, especially an MBA, would give me that competitive edge.
But after a semester of full-time work, an unpredictable retail schedule, and late nights of business stats homework, I decided grad school wasn’t the right move for me. Shortly after dropping out, I had the chance to ask the Vice President of Banana Republic about his views on the MBA. Did he think it was worth it? Did I need it to get to his level? His response? No!
The VP of one of the most well-known apparel brands in the world told me I didn’t need an MBA to do his job. In fact, he didn’t have one. In that moment, I felt justified. Though dropping out may not exactly be an honorable thing, it was the right choice for me, and I finally felt okay with the decision.
That VP told me that experience mattered, that working in the field was the greatest teacher, the best way to learn. He was, of course, referring to retail, but that observation can easily be applied to every field, except those ones where formal training cannot be omitted (i.e. law, medicine, etc.) I don’t want a doctor who didn’t go to medical school.
Another degree, another class, another $40, 70, even 100K spent on tuition isn’t always the answer. That’s not to say grad school doesn’t provide any value. Surely, having that degree and the experience gives you a leg up. But then again, maybe it doesn’t.
Conduct a Google search about unemployed college grads, there’s no shortage of opinions, statistics, and horror stories. Your degree, at any level, can help you. But there’s no guarantee you’ll make it just because you have one. Your education has to be supplemented with something else—experience.
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Regardless of what we learn in a classroom setting, it doesn’t all come together until we gain practical experience.
That was a clip from YouTuber and lifestyle influencer Brittany Daniel, debating the pros and cons of experience vs. education. In this context, they’re being pitted against each other, but I think they’re both necessary if you want to achieve any level of success.
Experience is where you put your education into action. In college, I spent almost every day of class learning how to be a good journalist. And outside of class, I worked as a reporter for the St. Augustine Record, covering everything from activities at assisted living centers to the economic impact of the Super Bowl in Jacksonville. It was through this experience that I ultimately decided traditional journalism wasn’t for me. And it was through my experience that I was able to truly deliver great work in my classes.
Now, I’m hoping to use experience, with only a little bit of education, to pursue a different path.
About three weeks ago, I had an idea for a TV show. I was thinking it would make a great web series. Once I had a pitch and a pilot episode, I could look for collaborators and start production—a process that I didn’t envision happening for a while, at least a couple months. But a couple days after, a friend of mine—Victoria, the owner of the ColoredContent streaming network and creator of Black Web Fest—tagged me in a Facebook post for a pitch contest. BET had partnered with ColorCreative and the American Black Film Festival to find fresh writing talent. I had just under two weeks to create a pitch for a series. The top three finalists head to ABFF on an all-expense paid trip, and the grand prize winner sells their pilot to BET.
I knew I had to write my pitch and pilot now. In roughly 3 days, I created a pitch and wrote a rough draft of the pilot. I got feedback on both, made edits, and entered my pitch on Tuesday of last week.
Now, of course, this is a contest—I’m aiming to place; hell, to win. But my success is now out of my control; it’s about the judges’ preferences and their assessments of my skills.
But what’s important for me is this—I don’t have an MFA, I didn’t go to film school, I’ve never worked on a TV show set. I’ve only taken a single screenwriting class and watched a ton of TV. What I have done is write. I write thousands of words every week, and I edit and proofread thousands more. I may not be a Hollywood vet, or a graduate of a prestigious writing school, but I’ve got the experience. I know how to tell a story. And here’s hoping that’s enough (combined with my hard work) to make an impression.
All this to say that while there’s benefit to be gained from a great education, it isn’t everything. And quite often, at least when it comes to business and the creative arts, hard work mixed with raw talent can produce great results.
If you can go to a great grad school, and you’ve got the time and the money and the desire, by all means, do it. But if you can’t, don’t think that it’s a barrier between you and the job you want (provided you don’t want to become a lawyer, doctor, or scientist).
I refuse to let that stop me.
New on the blog this week, I take a look at the culture of the immediate consensus, through the lens of criticism about Childish Gambino’s “This Is America”. I’ve also posted a Q&A with music industry veteran Jimmy Spice Curry.
Thanks so much for listening to the Uptown Bourgeois podcast. Check back for new episodes every week, and subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud, Google Play, Stitcher, Overcast, PocketCast, and now iHeartRadio so you never miss out. If you love it, share it with your friends. If not, shoot me an email at email@example.com and let me know what you’d like me to talk about. Until next week…
The Uptown Bourgeois podcast is written, produced, and edited by Jefferey Spivey, and is an official property of Uptown Bourgeois, LLC. All original music is provided courtesy of RMVD.