Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's a very sad thing...

For some years, I have been targeting a specific organisation as a place I'd really like to work. I've had cause to visit their premises several times and have always felt bouyed by the evident passion and enthusiasm of the people who work there. Having had my fill of cynicism and eye-rolling, I relished the idea of being surrounded by fellow wild-eyed zealots. They have always struck me as an organisation that is prepared to break with tradition, to push the envelope, to... oh heck, there's no other way of saying it... think outside the box, colour outside the lines (pick your cliche).

On every occasion, my applications have fallen at the first hurdle, and I was at a loss as to why. As recently as a few weeks ago, I made yet another application and yet again did not make the first round of interviews. This time, I was able to contact the person recruiting for the role and find out where my shortcomings were, so that I could address them next time around.

I was deeply saddened that my application was dismissed primarily because I do not hold a first degree. I have cobbled together enough pieces of formal education over the years to be accepted onto not one but two post-graduate study programmes. I am half way through a Master's degree programme. I have more informal learning than you can shake a stick at, and twenty years of experience in the field of L&D. How gut-wrenchingly dismaying that all this counts for nought if you cannot produce a piece of paper that says that you have a Bachelor's degree.

Yes, there were two other points on which I didn't demonstrate evidence of competency, and that is my fault. But the way that the response was worded made it very clear that the primary reason for my rejection was that dratted piece of paper.

You know, when I left school, I would have loved to go to university, but the money wasn't there, and the banks wouldn't agree to a loan, since I was a girl who wanted to study mechanical engineering design. Shock horror. The attrition rate among girls in that field was so high, and the employment opportunities for women so rare in those days, that the banks didn't consider it a worthwhile risk.

In the intervening thirty years, I have bust my butt to make up for what recruiters saw as a lack. I followed (and passed) two teaching diploma courses simultaneously from in the period 1980-82. In addition to the things I have already listed, I have attended more short courses than many people have had hot dinners. I have put myself through so many CBT and VBT programmes on such a wide range of subjects, it would make your head spin.

When I decided to embark on my current MA programme, most universities could not see beyond my lack of a B degree (including the organisation at the heart of this post - in spite of the fact that it is theoretically possible to gain access by other means of proving competency). When I approached my current university, they said "Good grief! Of course we'll have you." And never once have I felt that the rest of my cohort outperforms me in any way because they have something I don't. Quite the contrary, in fact.

I had honestly hoped that my disadvantaged start was something I was going to be able to put behind me. But, sad to say, it seems that this is not to be the case. Even though it is some time since I my big four-oh.

When I suffered my first broken heart, an older, wiser woman told me that the best thing to do when you've been rejected is to look good and have fun. Let him see what he's missed out on, darling. What do you suppose the professional equivalent is?

Surely we have reached a stage in our attitudes towards learning where we see beyond formal programmes? Have we not moved on from the perception that only a university can really educate a person, where university educated=superior, non-university educated=puh-lease, don't waste my time?

Yes, I am a bit annoyed. Yes, I am feeling a bit bitter, and the chip on my shoulder is probably digging into my stiff neck.

But most of all I am sad. Disillusioned.


Cheryl said...

Welcome to the club. I've applied to them too on a couple of occasions after being encouraged by people already working for them who thought I would be perfect. I have a first degree so it must be some other are of personal competency that I haven't sussed yet ! Thw wise woman's advice works professionally too - let them see how good you are and what you are missing !

Nancy White said...

Karyn, it is probably a good thing you are going Indy. you will still have to prove yourself over and over again, but the difference is that clients who like you/your work provide the next client, unlike institutions which can't do that. The relationships of working freestyle are the BEST! Good luck.

Nicola Avery said...

I'd recommend writing lots of rock songs and riding a motorbike around a hotel. Apparently Surrey gave Jimmy Page a degree the other week (don't know what for)

N :-)

LearningAnorak said...

Thanks, ladies, for your support. I obviously wasn't as circumspect as I thought if @Cheryl knows who I mean. Oh dear! There I go again. This is the sort of thing that landed me in hot water.

@Nancy I so hope you're right. I have never heard you speak or seen you in the flesh, but you strike me as a fellow zealot, and I feel and affinity for you on those grounds.

@Nicola Thanks for the sensible advice ;o) Such a pity I'm too much of a wuss to go biking these days. Now in my misspent student years....