Earning a bachelor’s degree, particularly from a reputable university, offers many benefits. Not only does this type of education give knowledge but it can also pave the way to a bigger paycheck.
Notwithstanding all the benefits that come with holding a bachelor’s degree, Agneta Hultgren, senior vice president of human resources at Gunnebo AB, a Swedish security service provider, told The Jakarta Post‘s Aulia Rachmat there are many people without degrees who have achieved success in their chosen fields.
Question: How important is a bachelor’s degree?
Answer: A bachelor’s degree is a way of telling me that you have finalized a formal education. You went through years to get to the final stage, but it doesn’t tell me that you have the right competence in any way. Having finalized your degree is important to show that you have fulfilled something. However, I can see that there are employees who do not have degrees but who are competent.
Due to today’s tight competition in the job market, holding a bachelor’s degree is becoming a must to getting a good position in a company. How do you view this phenomenon?
I’m aware of the fact that many companies only take candidates holding bachelor’s degrees for good positions. For me, people with experience should also be given opportunities to enter certain positions. In many cases, people with a lot of experience but no degree can perform better. However, it really depends on the position. Some positions require a degree and some positions require good professional experience. I think both of these groups of people are very important in a company.
What do you think of those who earn a bachelor’s degree in a particular subject but end up switching tracks and becoming a professional in a field their studies did not cover?
Having a degree tells me that you are able to get all the theories and as I said earlier you’ve finalized something through years of college time. This is the time when you also learn how to get information and digest it through a theoretical perspective. A subject may be a minor interest where it is not technical, not like the ones needing special qualifications like medicine. You definitely need to go to medical school to be a doctor.
But I see that in general, many subjects you learn in college are useful to broaden your knowledge without necessarily having to follow that profession in your career. It is still possible to see a person with an accounting degree become a journalist, or a person with an engineering degree become a manager.
The more important thing in the field of professionalism is how to enhance your career, not the degree program you took. Company training is one of the activities that has the potential to improve an employee’s performance.
It is very effective if delivered correctly. Surely, training is very important. Training should not be given to only new employees, but also to old employees as an enhancement program. These employees do the same daily routine to perform their tasks and take responsibility. They need motivation, input and inspiration. Providing training to all employees can give them more knowledge and the potential to create new ideas, which are important to developing their competence. To provide training is the responsibility of an employer, but employees should also take the initiative towards enhancing their performance.
It’s also important to develop leadership skills in those in managerial positions. Let them have the opportunity to develop their leadership skills. You really need to develop people when it comes to competence. Not only will honing managers’ leadership skills enable them to take further steps in their career, but it will also be good for the company’s succession planning.
Another way of improving an employee’s performance is through yearly evaluations. At PT Indolok Bakti Utama, one of Gunnebo’s subsidiaries, they have a yearly evaluation by engaging in one-on-one sessions with their employees. During a session, they discuss what they have achieved during the year and what their goals are for the coming year. Such session really helps you to succeed better. From my perspective, at least from what I’ve seen with the employees of Gunnebo, people are more motivated and can perform better.
Apart from this, I really believe that an employee’s personality and character play a great role in determining success since they are very important elements of professionalism.
Can you tell me more about the importance of personality and character?
When sorting job applicants you look at that particular candidate’s experience and whether he or she has a college degree. However, more important is the personal interview where the role of personality is crucial in making a judgment for the recruiter. It’s in the interview that an interviewer will get the feeling of the candidate’s personality, how he or she presents him or herself and how they act. This is the time where the interviewer asks questions about the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. The questions are crucial to evaluating the candidate’s character.
Both personality and character are very important factors. To me, both tell whether you are going to succeed in a job or not. Personality can influence your success, but the efficacy lies in a strong character.
Swedish Agneta Hultgren earned her bachelor’s degree from the Human Resources and Business Administration. She has had years of experience working in the field of human resources. She worked at a recruitment company in Oslo, Norway, and in Stockholm, Sweden, before joining a big American company in Brussels, Belgium.
She also held the position of vice president of human resources at the Getinge Group, a reputable global health company, before finally becoming senior vice president of human resources at Gunnebo AB.
Published in The Jakarta Post, February 13, 2008.