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Can you put a price on education?

The subject of education is one that lies close to people’s hearts. Whether it be that people themselves are within education or their child is making decisions regarding their future, it’s a hot and sensitive topic.

Today, there is much talk about ‘the value of education’. Given the imminent rise in university tuition fees, the price of a degree is set to hit £25,000, (and that’s before even the cost of living is taken into consideration) which leads many to ask whether a university degree is still worth it. The recent riots we’ve seen across London have shown us just how much of a priority an affordable education is. But it also leads us to ask whether there is an equally valuable, cost friendly alternative. Do candidates with professional qualifications and diplomas rank as highly as those with a university degree when it comes to employability? And how much does hands-on experience count for when it’s pitched against an education?

Undoubtedly, top firms still look for degree-educated candidates and generally, won’t consider individuals who haven’t attended a ‘top’ university. But what is a ‘top’ university? We all know that Oxford and Cambridge will stand you in good stead and there are a handful of other names that spring to mind when we think of good universities – namely the Russell Group universities. But what about the others?

Are some candidates getting overlooked because they don’t have specific university names on their CVs? It’s not as simple as to say ‘we’ll only take people from a top 20 university.’ One doesn’t immediately think of Bournemouth as a great university, yet it’s the number 3 university for Engineering, according to the Guardian Subject University Guide (2011). Likewise, Buckingham and Reading come up at the top for Business & Management studies whilst Essex is in the top 5 for Philosophy.

Clearly then there is a dichotomy between name and subject which leads us to wonder how large an impact this has. Would a candidate from a more reputable university be placed ahead of one who has studied the same course at a lower tier establishment, even if their grades were the same? Similarly, an issue arises when we look at the subject studied at university. How would a traditional degree qualification such as Law or Business Studies fair against a more practical qualification? And would it matter which university the degree was from?

As an academic, it is easy to argue that education is a must and that a strong degree qualification will be of interest to anyone. It provides you with transferrable skills as well as a logical approach to issues, no matter what you have read. However, as a Recruitment Consultant, it is arguable that experience is a must and those who start early and work their way up have far more commercial experience and business acumen than those who have theoretical knowledge.

Amol Rajan recently wrote in the Independent that “Far too many young people are wasting precious years in a university system taken hostage by the cult of egalitarianism” and I think to some this may hold true. Do the costs of education balance out the benefits in later years or is the price of learning too high?

Women on the Board

The European Commission is drawing up proposals which will require all publicly listed companies to have at least 40% of their Board comprised of women. Given that only 12.5% of Board positions in FTSE 100 companies are currently occupied by women, this would obviously cause a huge upheaval in many boardrooms. Apparently, the intention is for a voluntary code to be launched in April, with the threat that this will become compulsory if companies fail to sign up by the end of this year.

Is this a good idea? There is no doubt the UK lags behind many other countries in terms of our representation of women on the Board – 12% in the UK compared to 32% in Norway, 27% in Sweden and 15% in France. However, I’m not sure a quota is the solution. For a whole host of reasons, women in Board positions is a good move – but we should be there on merit, not as the result of a quota. The responsibility of a Board level position is too great to be handed out to someone to “make up the numbers” and undermines the achievements of women who’ve made it to the top on their own merits.

How to create a marketable product – yourself

According to recent surveys, there are a lot of unhappy workers in the UK. It therefore follows that many of them will see 2011 as a year of change.

Recruitment consultancies and prospective employers will become inundated with CVs and many of these will not impress. If you want to stand out from the crowd, now is the time to do some serious CV revamping. Just tacking your current experience on is not the right way to go about it. The best approach is to review the entire document and make it directly relevant to the role you want to apply for.

The first thing you need to do is make a note of the transferable skills you have gained in your current position. Consider what is unique about you, what benefits can you offer a potential employer? These could come in the form of specialist knowledge and experience, and your CV needs to detail what, when and where. Remember that when you apply for a new job, you are selling yourself to a potential employer so you must specify the way your skills will benefit the organisation.

Once you have determined your marketable skills, you should think about your work preferences. What type of environment do you want to work in? What sort of people do you want to work with? What role do you want to apply for? It’s essential to have more than just a plan A.

Identifying what you have to offer and what you want is a critical part of job seeking. If you concentrate on applying for roles that fit your accomplishments, experience, skills and goals you have a much better chance of convincing an employer to hire you.

As well as a well written CV and cover letter, you also need to approach job hunting with a proactive attitude. You must be persuasive and persistent. Possessing the right mind-set and a well planned strategy will increase your chances of success in the jobs market.

If you’re stuck in a rut and looking for change, use the above tips to give your CV an early spring clean. You can also contact one of our consultants who will be more than happy to help you!

Do you have any CV horror stories to tell? Or any tips for our readers? As always we’d love to hear them…

The key to successful decision making

Decision making is an important element in any job. Two Swiss academics have just published a new book entitled ‘The Decision Book’ which outlines 50 models to help tone up your strategic thinking. I thought readers might find some, or all, of the following four techniques useful.

Working out the right order in which to sort out all the things that need to be done can be a nightmare. One way around this is to draw up an ‘importance matrix’ to rank the tasks. Tackle the ones that are both important and urgent first then delegate those which are not important but are urgent. You can then decide when to tackle things that whilst important, are not urgent and the remainder get shelved.

Don’t veer away from what the management expects of you. Before starting any new project draw up a clear list of objectives. Outline the strengths and weaknesses in the team and the opportunities and threats that will be met along the way. You’ll then have a road map of what must be done, and when.

If you’re looking for a new job consider the pros and cons of your current situation and the alternative. Then simply decide which has the strongest appeal.

Providing somebody with feedback is difficult and often fraught with emotion. None of us like to be criticised and it can often be hard to see how to remedy the situation. In order to deal with feedback, categorise it as advice, compliment, criticism and suggestion. This will help you decide what action is necessary and what can be ignored.

Do you have your own special tips to impart to our readers? If so, we’d love to hear them…

The Worshipful Company of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators

The Worshipful Company of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (WCCSA) is a modern livery company of the City of London. While Livery Companies had their origins in the trade guilds of medieval times, they now represent many modern professions and trades.

The Company aims to enhance the Chartered Secretary profession governed, since 1902, by the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA), by fostering fellowship amongst its members, and by educational and charitable activities. In my short time in the Corporate Secretarial Arena, I have heard many a whispering of this association; however it wasn’t until this week that I fully came to understand how the organisation operates.

At the recent ICSA Event on the new CSQC Scheme a representative from the association (Steve to be precise!) came along and finally filled in the blanks explaining both the Apprenticeship scheme and consequent succession through the company. In a career as diverse as CoSec the livery company provides the opportunity to not just meet people in the same industry, but a support network for those who want it. Through a range of socials, lectures and charitable events it allows people to engage, learn, grow and eventually pass on their knowledge and experience to other generations. From what I can gather, it’s not just about what you can get from it, but what you give back as well. The livery company is the perfect opportunity to engage with the corporate secretarial arena, furthermore their apprenticeship scheme provides a brilliant stepping stone for all those embarking on a career within the industry.

As someone who has just embarked on a new career myself I can fully understand and appreciate how useful a support network of experienced hands is and as such, it would be wonderful to see a greater number of trainees and CoSec Assistants participating and making use of everything the WCCSA offer.

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