You should be earning or learning – but not all learning has to be the same. They don’t need to be formal qualifications. Experience is a way of learning. Learning through doing is a way to learn. And, not everyone cares about that “certificate” either.
As part of COVID-19, I said to a lot of people that one of the things that you could do was go out and learn something or you can’t be in the lab or in the field collecting data doing experiments, etc. I’ve seen a lot of people take up that advice not just from me but for themselves. You know, they’ve gone and looked for courses. They’ve enrolled in an online course. They’ve done the first course that stood out to them. Others have even asked social media what they should do. I mean obviously, I agree with that advice. I think you should be making use of the time the best way you can, and one of the ways that you can do that is to learn. But I think in my sphere, in the people that I see, a lot of people are interested in doing free courses but also courses that lead to a qualification or lead to a certificate. I think you need to challenge both of those things.
So let me explain. Firstly, PhD graduates, you’re all well qualified. There is no need for further qualification. You already have what it takes to get your first job after a PhD, after academia. So, getting another qualification probably isn’t going to change your chances of getting a job. What will change your chances though is experience. One of the things that I think demonstrates this is this idea of should I put my PhD on my resume or not. Or how should I express it? So, many times expressed in education, it doesn’t show you others what you’re capable of doing and what’s required of a PhD. Whereas, if you include it as part of your experience, it’s an opportunity to talk about the responsibilities that you had and the achievements that you had as a student. So, I think the first thing to think about is “Would experience be better than my qualification or than a certificate?” You know, another way to think about it is like this, if you had a mechanic working on your car and the first mechanic said to you, “Yes, I’ve done the course about how to fix cars.”, and the second mechanic said, “I have spent the last 6 weeks rebuilding my own car.”. Which mechanic would you rather the one who did the course or the one who had the practical experience of rebuilding a car. So, I think, that is an analogy that you can take into this idea of earning or learning, and sometimes learning can be getting experience not necessarily doing a formal qualification.
Now on to price. The price is subjective things, and thing and lots of people set their prices based on what it is that they think that they can get out of you as a result. So, if you, if I’m not doing much more to you know, quote-unquote “leverage you” or “leverage your participation”, then maybe there will be a high price for you attending my degree or my training program. But if I’m not charging you anything, then maybe I’m leveraging that by collecting your data whether that be an email address to follow you up later and sell something else or whether that’s some other thing. But not only that, if it’s a free course maybe the quality isn’t that good. Maybe it doesn’t have all of the information. Maybe it skips over big swathes of sections and opportunities, and you don’t get the opportunity to slow down and do it practically. Maybe it goes too fast. And the one thing that we all have the same amount of is time. So, I’d urge you to think about just because it’s free that’s not the only cost to consider. Like I said, there’s the time involved. Then there’s the practical experience you may or may not get as part of the course. So, there are 2 things to consider when you’re enrolling in a course. You know, do I need it to say that there’s a certificate at the end of it? I’d argue “no”. Then should it be for free? Well obviously, low cost is good in one sense, but it could be bad in another.
As always, let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear what you think.