At the beginning of November I was asked to do a survey asking about my Masters course and the relevance of my studies in relation to my work to kind of gauge if the course helped me obtain employment.
The truth is, kind of unfortunately, that none of my studies through university has really had anything in relation to helping me work or obtain employment directly.
And in fact, it has led me to be quite disenchanted with university education.
I think if I had any sway with determining education directional policies for my country I would advocate less university education, and more practical or technical education, that would prepare students for actually working in the real world.
I think university in Australia, and perhaps many European countries is seen rather naively as a the high path for obtaining better quality jobs and creating more value for society, but in reality….for everything I’ve seen….this is just not true. It is a misguided thought… in fact now, I would propose that it might even just be sophistry that some government members came up with who were heavily invested in semi-private university institutes and wanted to make a bit of money from.
I’ve had a few jobs where you didn’t need a degree whatsoever, and a friend of mine back in Australia, who dropped out of high school 2 years before everyone graduated enrolled in technical college and was earning 50,000 AUD a year at the time when the majority of us were in our 1st year of uni, and is now currently sitting on 200,000 AUD a year. He doesn’t have a degree, but he studied and learnt an actual skill, and has been improving himself ever since. He chose a pathway that was actually needed, not something that was thought was ‘noble’ or one believed you had to be ‘very clever’ to study.
And who’s the one in front now?
For any strategy there has to be a goal, if the goal is to make more money or even more money over time….then I don’t think university in Australia is the way to go, I think my friend proves that quite obviously.
If the goal is to get a ‘better job’ for example less harsh conditions ….then maybe.
However, if the goal is simple to become more highly educated, then a university education achieves this no problem.
I think most people believe that university education = more employability, but it is my firm opinion that this is just NOT true.
The most employable skills I have, is having an analytical, rational and logical mind, an understanding of how a great many people react to certain situations, an ability to put myself in others shoes and see situations from their perspectives… maybe an ability to think more about strategy more than the average person, and my Chinese language ability.
I have formally studied (at university), pure mathematics, finance, exploration geology, Chinese, Asian cultures & business and international relations. The degrees I ended up finishing with was a double bachelor degree in Finance + Chinese / Asian cultures & business and a Master’s degree in International Relations.
Let me stress…. Other than maybe the Chinese cultures and business….. these formal qualifications have NOT helped me obtain employment at all.
Even my Chinese language skills were mainly learned spending time in country in China with a private tutor and self-study.
So anyway… some of the questions asked from this survey are quite interesting so I’ve provided a copy below along with my answers.
It was specifically about studying International relations through Griffith via Open Universities.
What do I do currently in my job since I have graduated?
-Bridge between the European team & Chinese I.T. team (speaking in Chinese & English)
-Keeping up communication of on-going projects with our key client
-Warehouse management & conflict resolution
-Checking for suggested projects viability & worth
-New partnership opportunities & development support
-Developing future strategy for European office support
What kind of business or service is carried out by your employer at the place you work?
Comprehensive Cross-border logistics, customs declaration & systems development
Where is your employer based?
Netherlands, but I also have directives from the China office & USA office
What were the best aspects of your program?
Whilst there were some core units that you HAD to do, you could also choose ones that were most interesting you, which meant that even though everyone’s majors were the same, you could effectively focus on something quite specific depending on the optional units you ended up choosing; as well as what individual projects you undertook within those options units.
For example whilst many could have come out with a round & broad understanding of how international forces interacted on a grand scale in the Asia -Pacific region, through the units & focus I undertook, my particular focus ended up being on China and the interactions domestically, between S.E Asia, USA & Australia. With a special interest in Security strategy for China, Australia & USA
What aspects of your program were most in need of improvement?
More visualisation of material was needed. Whilst this field is traditionally undertaken by standard print journal research papers…which are obviously very important to the field, it quickly becomes apparent, especially when you already have some degree of detailed understanding on domestic & international strategic policy (from example mine was with China) that many journal articles simple reference each other, and that not many provide new empirical evidence.
I think this is a problem as conclusions can be based on rational and logical lines of thought, but if the base evidence that stems this thought is very small or if it is never updated, then there’s always chances that we’re drawing conclusions based on the wrong information.
If it was encouraged to go out into the field and undertake real empirical evidence building to provide information rather than just build an argument , I think the field could have more potential to draw more detailed conclusions, and provide a more interesting experience for the student.
What are the main ways that Griffith University prepared you for employment in your organisation?
I wanted to study the Masters in International Relations with the original intention of applying for the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, and or to possible work for a Foreign Policy & Strategy Institute; however I ended up being offered a job half-way through my studies whilst living in China. I took this as a good opportunity to learn whilst keeping the study going for something to fall back on later if i ever need it in some regard.
It has allowed me to broaden my horizons, and due to the particular specialisation I took through selection of units & projects, I have a much more in depth understanding of how China works, which is useful as I work for a Chinese company working internationally, but for actually carrying out what I need to know to do my job, it’s not that important.
It did however showcase, as my degree seems to be in-line with what institutions and governments study, that governments have no real idea of how policy is made in China, and that private companies have much more sway than governments that think they understand the issues ever could.
What are the main ways Griffith University could have better prepared you for employment in your organisation?
If they could concentrate or add a mandatory unit on contract negotiation & conflict resolution, for which is both important in government & in the private sector. I think this would be a very useful subject of study and skill to be taught.
So that’s the end of the questionnaire…. or rather the important questions.
I think a question, that I haven’t really been asked, but I think is important for anyone wanting to possibly undertake a Masters degree as they’ve already started work, is
‘Is it worth it?’
The answer in my opinion is No.
One of the other questions that helps answer WHY my answer is no, is ‘how difficult is it to manage your time?’
That answer, is Very difficult .
Essentially if you’re working full time like I was, it means that the majority of your free time will be put into studying. Your ‘social life’ which you may or may not cherish, is being forfeited a great deal to make sure that you keep up with your readings, your studies, and completing all projects and discussions.
Think of it like your online Masters course now IS your social life, the one thing you’re meant to enjoy…..so you better damn enjoy it.
I missed out on a great many things because of having to study this course. In fact I think it even contributed to somewhat in the ending of a long-term relationship that I was involved in, just because it was very time intensive.
Then you have to ask yourself… how is this going to lead to a better chance of employment?
In my case, I studied this with the goal of applying for the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, however I was offered a job in a Chinese company doing international trade near the end of my degree and whilst I took up that position…which had no relation to the course study, I thought I would keep this Master’s degree for a backup plan.
There are some courses which you specifically need a degree, not just ‘it’s preferable’ , but that you actually need it as the entrance qualification; if these degrees have a decent amount of required practical work, then it’s probably worth it. For example a Master’s in Teaching…. I think that would be a worthwhile course.
So the point is choose wisely, and be 100% sure that you have the time, and it is helping you go in the right direction, because this course no matter what, will suck a lot from you.