Academic or Experienced?

Academic or Experienced?

degree vs work experienceRightly or wrongly, there’s probably nothing more galling for an engineering veteran with 20 years or more under their belt than a ‘jumped-up’ graduate with little or no experience of the “real” working world.

This is not graduate-bashing time, some do realise their deficiencies and want to learn from the very veterans their presence has irritated, but others irk even more by strutting around spouting paragraph after textbook paragraph, only to find themselves stumped at the first problem that doesn’t have its own section in the index.

Controversial? Maybe. Truth? Absolutely. But then, consider another scenario. Think about the times when the veteran employee is stumped by a puzzle. They can see no way out, stuck as they are in their usual problem-solving approach.

Along comes the ‘pompous’ graduate with no pre-conceived ideas and no professional baggage. Fresh ideas aplenty, even if real experiences are few and far between. Are their new, valid or innovative ideas or approaches any less valuable just because they haven’t spent 20 years ‘on the job’?

The fact is, there’s a place for both in the workplace. Decades in one job will make a person a specialist but a good graduate could translate their skills to benefit a whole host of roles. Is one better than the other? That would depend on the role and on your future plans.

If you’re employing with a particular role and goal in mind, a veteran could be the ideal choice. But could you be cashing in experience for pre-conceived ideas and an unwillingness to change anything, from professional practices to the hours in a working day?

Alternatively, you can employ a graduate who may come in with a wealth of theoretical knowledge but no idea as to how to apply it. Then again, this is a person who could be moulded and shaped to fit in perfectly with your organisation and the role you want them to fulfil. Although, there are undoubtedly also graduates out there who have already amassed their own professional ideals from a month or two of work experience.

There are, of course, plenty of people out there who are not as extreme as either of these examples. The middle ground. The un-jaded veteran. The practical graduate. The experienced worker still brimming with enthusiasm. The novice who has the get-up-and-go to seek out advice and expertise from more experienced mentors.

These are the people who strike employment gold. These are the individuals every employer wants to see on their candidate list. Yet, these ‘gold dust’ candidates are always few and far between.

So we’re back to the dilemma, academia vs experience? There is no definitive answer. Only you can decide, and if you think you have an idea now, the next candidate you meet might just change your mind.