Sunday, 26 May 2013

High salary and high performance require book smart and street smart!


Heera: ‘Qualifications bring credibility to the job’. Heera: ‘Qualifications bring credibility to the job’.
WHEN it comes to hiring suitable talents, it would be ideal to have a potential employee with the relevant qualifications as well as one that has practical experience.

But what if there was just one vacancy available – and the organisation had to choose between the two candidates? In a hypothetical situation between a candidate that’s “book smart” (has the relevant qualifications) and one that’s “street smart” (has the practical experience), who would be the more likely choice?

More importantly, is a high-paying job unattainable for those without formal education? Or is there still a chance for a candidate that does not have that oh-so-important diploma or degree?

The book smart candidate

Heera Training and Management Consultancy principal consultant Heera Singh believes a candidate with the relevant qualifications would generally be “technically competent” in that job.

“It certainly brings credibility to the job. For example, if someone has a Masters in Human Resources (HR) Management, then the qualification enhances his credibility,” he tells StarBizWeek.

“It also assists greatly in the recruitment and selection of employees. For example, if a job is advertised and does not specify technical qualifications, but only states practical experience required, then every Tom, Dick and Harry will apply and this will ensure lots of extra work for the HR department,” Heera says.

Leaderonomics finance and human resources leader Ang Hui Ming concurs that having the right qualifications adds more credibility to an individual seeking employment – at least on paper.

“Generally, the employee might probably have a wider knowledge-base theoretically of the function he is hired for and has some form of certification of his ability to understand at least the basic concepts of the function,” she says.

However, it has often been said that what one learns in theory can be quite different in practice.

Heera believes that the “book smart” candidate, though technically qualified, still lacks experience – an important element that may be vital in certain jobs.

Ang: ‘Being technically qualified doesn’t mean they can do the jobs well’. Ang: ‘Being technically qualified doesn’t mean they can do the jobs well’.

“Being technically qualified does not mean that they can do the jobs well. They may be more academically inclined rather than hands-on.

“They may be technically qualified but may not like the job. Many people, for example, go to university and do courses that their parents want them to do, or courses which their friends are doing. All they want to do is to get their qualifications.”

Ang, meanwhile, feels that not having the relevant experience is not a big deal – as it is something that can be acquired over time.

“There is no real disadvantage, experience is to meant to be built anyway.

“At most, it’s the lack of reality. If a person is all academic, it is uncertain how he or she will handle real life situations where the theories they learn needs to be adapted to the situation, environment and culture of any given place and time.”

The street-smart candidate

The advantage of hiring an employee with experience means that they can do the job straight away with minimal disruptions, says Heera.

“There is minimum need for any job orientation and at interviews, you can ascertain the type of practical experience they have and see if it suits or meets your job expectations.”

Ang concurs: “Generally, the employee might have deeper expertise in the function and would have experienced real-life situations in the function. This makes the person more adaptable and adept to handle similar natured situations more wisely and calmly.”

“The type of experience is important. If they have the wrong type of experience, then it is of no use to the company. For example, if a person has worked in a HR capacity in a government department, then his experience may not necessarily gel with what is wanted in the HR department in the private sector.

“Experience can be a bad teacher as it is always difficult to mould a person who has the experience but has picked up some bad habits along the way.”

Ang feels there’s no real disadvantage to hiring someone that has no paper qualifications but is oozing with experience.

“At most, probably a possible lack of what’s new in the market, or what’s happening on a global scale or what new technology is out there that can better equip him or her in the function.

“This is only an assumption as people that are hands-on can still learn market trends and future technology if they read up and do research on their own. There is just no paper qualification – that’s all.”

Does it really matter?

According to an article on online investment site Investopedia, “Is It Better To Be Book Smart Or Street Smart,” its author, Tim Parker, points out that one does not need to have the relevant paper qualifications to be truly successful.

“Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, is widely regarded as one of the best businessmen of his day. He didn’t have a college degree and neither did Steve Wozniak, the other founder of Apple.

“Other successful businessmen without college degrees include Dell Computer founder Michael Dell, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Virgin Brands founder Sir Richard Branson. People all over the world have found success without a college degree,” he writes.

But is that the rule or the exception, he then asks.

“Unemployment data shows that more than 8% of the population looking for a job (in the US) can’t find one.

However, for those with a bachelor’s degree, the unemployment rate is only 3.9%. The unemployment rate is 13% for people without a high school diploma.

“A college degree doesn’t guarantee success, but Bureau of Labour Statistics unemployment statistics show book smarts more than double your chances of finding a job.”

Of course, having an employee with both the relevant paper qualifications and practical experience would be the optimum choice, naturally.

“This would definitely be an ideal combination,” says Heera.

Ang says having both qualities would indeed be a plus point, adding however that having both relevant qualification and practical experience does not make one a best employee.

“It’s a person’s character, values and attitude that makes him or her a good employee. Qualifications and experience are all things that can be accumulated as long as one has the right attitude and desire.”

By EUGENE MAHALINGAM eugenicz@thestar.com.my

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