Want a For-good Career? Get More Experience, Not Education

Mark Horoszowski

Mark Horoszowski is the co-founder and CEO of MovingWorlds.org.

Confucius Quote

According to the annual Net Impact study, there is a growing demand of “for-good” careers.

In order to find your dream for-good career, maybe school isn’t what you need. Experience is.

In one of the latest articles on the popular blog, Barking Up the Wrong Tree, Eric Barker write about ‘8 Things the Most Successful People Do That Make Them Great‘. At the number 2 spot is this:

Stop Reading. Start Doing.

Keep the “Rule of Two-Thirds” in mind. Spend only one third of your time studying.

The other two-thirds of your time you want to be doing the activity. Practicing. Testing yourself.

Why is it so important to spend so much time “doing”. This lesson comes from research by Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, who shares that:

Our brains evolved to learn by doing things, not by hearing about them… If you want to, say, memorize a passage, it’s better to spend 30 percent of your time reading it, and the other 70 percent of your time testing yourself on that knowledge.

A growing body of evidence suggests that experience (for certain career paths) might be more important then education. Business insider published an article ‘Education vs. Experience: Reconsider Your Priorities‘. In it, the author Heather R Human reveals that:

Employers value relevant experience. Whether it’s experience working in a paid, full-time job, at an internship, volunteering, or from some other type of position—these can hold a lot of weight in landing a job. Although education is a great foundation for any professional, experience is often the key to standing out among other professionals who have the exact same degree that you have.

A survey by Internships.com found that employers “Employers prefer candidates with experience over a degree from an elite school”. In fact,  93% claimed experience to be the number one qualification that employers looked for.

A Huffington Post article, ‘Why Gaining Work Experience Is More Important Than Your Education‘, highlighted the same sentiment:

Future employers — in a variety of fields — feel that real-world experience is the only thing standing between [people] and their dream jobs.

Take it from Oklahoma City plastic surgeon Dr. Tim Love: “Whether it is a paid or volunteer status, this involvement [in your desired field] will increase [your] confidence and savvy while exhibiting dedication and responsibility.”

That’s right — even medical professionals want to see you put in a little legwork. Besides showing them how responsible you are, it gives you an idea of what to expect from yourself.


How volunteering can help you get your dream job

More and more, career advisors are suggesting highlighting unique experiences in your job hunt. Many, like Brazen Careerist, even suggest volunteering as a way to obtain that experience, and provides additional advice about how to display your volunteer work on your resume.

LinkedIn also published research on the importance of volunteering. In the article ‘Why Volunteering is Good for Your Career‘, author Nicole Williams shares that

One of the safest ways of test-driving your passion as a career is to volunteer your talents. Not only do you get to try your hand at a repertoire of new skills and experiences in a low-risk forum, but you’ll also be showcasing these talents to a whole host of peers who may just happen to have the connections you need to get hired.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) also published a ground-breaking new study that shows empirical evidence that volunteering leads to employment. Similarly,  Deloitte 2013 Volunteering IMPACT Research found that

76 percent of human resource executives said the skills and experience acquired while volunteering make a job candidate more desirable. Learn a new skill or enhance the skills you already have — volunteering can deliver both, and hiring managers will take notice when they see them on your resume.

Not all experiences are created equal

While this article is promoting the value of experience over education to help you find your dream for-good career, it is important to note that not all experiences are created equal. When deciding when to get experience, ask yourself the following:

  1. Does the experience give me exposure in an industry I care about?
  2. Am I applying my skills in a way that will help me further develop them?
  3. Will I learn new soft and/or technical skills to will help me stand out?


So, do you need education or experience?

When it comes to deciding between education or experience, the answer is probably both. But we find that people typically over-educate and under-experience. As the research in this blog post shares, it should be the opposite way around: experience not only helps you develop your skills, but it also helps you stand out.

“People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves.”  -Paule Coelho