Distinguishing education and success in the career world

Choosing to how to continue education after high school can be a daunting task and some students dive into it before having a solid grasp on what they really want to do, says career coach Alan Kearns.

Kearns founded CareerJoy, a company that offers professional services and tools for career management. He says the key to success is not necessarily more education, but developing skills.

“The best way to start is by looking at who’s doing what you want to do,” he says. “You have to move from ‘A’ to ‘A+’. This does not mean more education, but what you would do differently.”

The average student in Ontario spends more than $7,000 per year on undergraduate tuition, reports Statistics Canada for 2013.

This adds up quickly for students like Ayisha Cretney-Reney, 26, a third-year criminology student at Carleton University. Before coming to school in Ontario, she spent five years on post-secondary education in Quebec.

Cretney-Reney is from Montreal, so she had to complete mandatory CEGEP, which in English translates to general and vocational college. CEGEP typically lasts two years, but after switching her study focus, it took her three to complete it. Following this, she attended Concordia University part-time for two years.



Finally, she transferred to university in Ottawa where she is scheduled to graduate next year; but that won’t be the end of her post-secondary studies. She says she plans on continuing her education by pursing either a master’s degree or attending law school to set her apart from the competition in the career world. The careers she is considering pursuing vary from police officer to lawyer to CSIS data analyst.

“Nowadays, a lot of people have bachelor degrees. At one time, having a university degree was considered a luxury,” she says. “You were a shining star with a degree, now we’re a dime a dozen.”

Cretney-Reney says she will likely have completed 10 years of post-secondary education before settling into a career.

“I don’t know if I would say there is such thing as too much education because the whole purpose of education is to learn, so people who continue their education, ideally, love to learn,” she says. “The way I see it is if I am to continue my education, it’s because I love it, not because I feel that it will add to my pay cheque.”

Joel Naga, 21, stayed for only one semester in Carleton University’s political science program before dropping out three years ago.

“I decided to pursue a career without school when I realized that school no longer catered to me, it was me that had to cater to school,” he says. “The fact that I had to cater to the speed at which my classes were moving was actually hindering my learning instead of helping it.”

Naga now works as a marketing strategist with a company in Toronto called The Young Astronauts. He says he hopes to see his ideas develop into multi-million dollar businesses that will stimulate the economy and create jobs.

“School is not important to success, it is simply a tool. I could run or jog, both will still get me to the finish line as long as I’m moving forward,” he says.


Naga says that people should first focus on figuring out what interests them and pursue it however best suits them
“One needs to discover how fast or slow they learn; a teacher giving a lecture may not work for some people, but for others it will,” he says. “The importance needs to be removed from the school system and placed back into education.”

Kearns says it can be expensive for people to go to school without having a good idea of what they want to do. He says it is crucial for people to focus on what they are interested in, not necessarily what they think the economy needs and that having a passion for your career will get you further. He says his best advice for people is to get experience in what they want to do.

“Don’t wait, create. People wait for a door to open and we live in an incredibly competitive world,” he says. “It’s about creating your own opportunity. Look for security in your skill set, not in the company you work for.”