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Graduates need to think beyond their certificates

By Michael Augustine Katua

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school. It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education” — Albert Einstein

The greatest form of disability in life is not knowing your ability. Your winning edge in life is not the degree you have acquired or the certificate you possess, but your ability to solve problems.

Whenever I interview graduates, I am not only interested in their qualifications; I am interested in their special skills, their experiences and their unique approach to problem-solving. Many graduates cannot apply the knowledge they have acquired in school to solving real life problems in the workplace. However, the 21st century employer will not necessarily pay you a salary for the certificate you have earned, but for the value, creativity and problem-solving skills you can add to his company.

The fact that there are more employable graduates than the available jobs is a sad reality. And only graduates who can think beyond their certificates and qualifications will eventually find their place in life and in the workplace. Your certificate may be proof that you have gone to school, but the proof of your education lies in your ability to solve problems through innovation and creativity.

Graduates that cannot solve problems are even considered liabilities by some employers. Education is not simply about going to school and getting a degree; it is about broadening your knowledge, thinking creatively and absorbing life experiences. We must see our education as something that goes beyond our certificates. Many people spend precious years in school only to end up acquiring a certificate, not true education. Have you ever heard of the term, ‘think outside the box?’

One of the major reasons most graduates struggle to find jobs is that they cannot see and think beyond their specific qualifications. I have seen engineering graduates work as bankers. I have seen medical doctors with great skills in web and graphic design. I have seen lawyers who are very dexterous with finances. The list is endless!

The basic truth is that the skills needed to become employable and successful are not necessarily found within the walls of a classroom. Your certificate is proof that you are teachable – but true education goes beyond formal instruction.

Think about it: If you remove your certificate from the picture, what are the things you can do well and effortlessly? You will probably need the knowledge you have acquired in school or at university to apply those skills – but they should not become limitations to your personal growth.

I am privileged to be a Developmental Economist but I also solve problems in many different fields of study, including Arts and Science. Several organizations have contracted me as their immediate consultant to solve all kinds of problems they face in or with their organizations. Over and above my analytical skills, I have also given advice and guidance to many other young people, which has been a highly enriching experience.

Some of the richest people in the world are not academic PhD graduates, but they are innovative and creative and have developed solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Jim Rohn said: “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” Similarly, one could argue that while formal education can earn you a living, self-education can make you a legend. Formal education teaches you how to conform to society, but self-education teaches you how to get out of conformity so that you can fill your life with adventure and beauty.

We have to be more robust and open-minded in our approach to learning and must never limit our education to schooling alone. Graduates who don’t think beyond their certificates will ultimately become an endangered species in a world that needs multi-skilled individuals to solve ever more complex problems.

I am calling out to all graduates: Stop projecting your frustration onto your government and the lack of jobs. Stop blaming the fact that you are poor on external forces. The skills you need to become successful may simply lie beyond your certificates. Get exposure to things and experiences that are different from what you are taught in school and in university! Think beyond your formal qualifications and your possibilities will be endless!

Michael Augustine Katua is an activist and Africademics volunteer from Sierra Leone. He is passionate about youth and community development and he joined Africademics because “it is only through volunteering that we can give back to our nations”.