University exemption.

Two words that caused much consternation in my home and among my peers leading up to matric prelims and finals.

When we chose subjects in Grade 10, the focus was almost exclusively on picking a combination (MATHS! SCIENCE! BIOLOGY! ACCOUNTING!) that significantly improved one’s chances of being accepted into a good university, in a good course. “If you don’t have a degree, you’re screwed” was the prevailing wisdom.

Well, I still haven’t gotten that degree. That is after two attempts. I did ok though, and while I am certainly not knocking the value of a good tertiary education at a good tertiary institution, with all the added life experience that it brings, I think the burden on ensuring my kids have a degree is far less important to me than it may have been to my parents.

The problem with university is two-fold. Firstly, the world around us is changing at such an exponential rate – technologically, sociopolitically and environmentally – ushering in a generation far less interested in collecting degrees, title, big houses and expensive cars, and far more interested in collecting ideas, perspectives and experiences. The time it takes for knowledge to be inculcated into the tertiary syllabus is dramatically exceeded by the rate of change outside of those institutions.

Secondly, school teaches us squat about the real world. Most kids leave school with absolutely zero idea of what they actually want to do. In Grade 11, after we’d chosen our subjects, at least 72% of our class wanted to be marine biologists. Goodness knows why – I blame Free Willy. Unless your child wants to be a lawyer, accountant, doctor, veterinarian, etc., chances are school has taught them nothing about what the world of work is actually like. Their degree of insight will be dependent almost entirely on your input, and if you’re not particularly good at exposing them to options and alternatives, there’s a great danger they’ll be shoehorned into a degree they hate in a university they hate with people they hate for the best flipping years of their life. That’s a bit kak.

If either of my kids are bent on the professional route I will do my utmost to enable their journey to and through a university that gives them the best chance at being the best version of that. But to be honest – and this has become the advice I’m giving everyone of that age or ilk that I speak to – taking a gap year could be the best thing you could do for yourself, or do for your child.

NOT A GAP YEAR TO FLIPPING LONDON.

Even before you do the rad travel thing, spend at least 6 months or ideally a year, straight out of school, working odd jobs in as many different sizes and types of company that you possibly get can. Capture data. Pack parts. Ship product. Sit in meetings. Watch presentations. Have a good boss. Have a shit boss. Understand the energy and risk of a small business, and the power and politics of a big one. Learn stuff. Break stuff. Ask questions.

I can’t think of a single degree that can offer more insight into business than a year of that. You don’t even need to get paid. Money would be a bonus but experience and perspective is the real reward.

We set up our Talent Fast Track (Fastie) program at Cerebra to meet exactly this need; To give graduates or fresh-out-of-school youngsters an accelerated experience of what it’s like to work in our business and with our clients. Those that make it through the initial bootcamp are offered a contract to ‘specialise’ in a particular avenue of focus. I guess it’s a sexy name for a graduate program.

And yes, the whole point of this provocative little post was to promote that program. Ha!

Please, if you know anyone with a passion for social media or branding or advertising that would like to go through our Fastie program, get them to send their information and a CV to careers@cerebra.co.za. It is a fantastic opportunity and makes a hell of a difference to Cerebra!

Out of interest, are you going to prescribe that your kids (or future kids) go to university? And if so, why?