Ladies At Lunch – Is higher education essential for a successful career?

March 1, 2017

Ladies At Lunch – Is higher education essential for a successful career?

Going to university or TAFE used to be the obvious next step after graduating from Year 12, but as the business world is rapidly changing, there is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach, and higher education is not the only key to success.

What do you want to do when you grow up? It’s the question often plaguing high school students as they enter their final years of schooling – Should I go to university? Should I enrol in TAFE? Do I take a gap year and gain life experience?

There is often a lot of pressure that comes with making those all-important decisions, and while it feels like you’re setting your whole life in cement, as our lunching ladies discovered, no decision has to be permanent – you can forge your own path, and it’s perfectly okay to change your mind throughout your career.

Joining me for lunch at The Creek Tavern in Mountain Creek was Paula Brennan of Paula Brennan Photography; Melissa Drury, owner of MD Cosmetic and Skin Clinic; Anthea Kovacevic, Director of Signal Fox; Laureen Maschek of Maschek Couture; and Nicola Holland of Nicola Holland Photography.

Profile: Is a degree essential for a successful career?

Laureen: I don’t think it is, I know a lot of women who stopped school when they were in Year 10, or much younger, and have gone on to have really successful businesses … I think what’s really important is your creativity and hard work.
Melissa: I don’t think academic education is the be all and end all, it’s really important to have life experience, it’s where you learn a work ethic and social skills, which are very important with creating a business. Ongoing education can be through so many other channels, it doesn’t have to be through university, and the kids today have so many options, so it’s a combination of everything.
Anthea: I don’t think it’s imperative, if you’re just doing it for the wrong reasons it can make life more challenging, it can put you behind if you’re surrounded by people telling you you should be doing it and your heart’s not in it, it’s a waste of time.
Melissa: As I’ve always told my kids, do what you’re passionate about and the money will follow, who wants to go to uni and do a job you don’t enjoy for the next 30 years if you have no passion?
Paula: I wish the school system was less geared towards that as the outcome when you leave school though, because when I was at school, I was in private education and everything was geared towards going to university and I signed up and did uni for a year and I was lonely and I hated it, it wasn’t for me and I ended up with a HECS debt for a year’s worth of education that got me nowhere. Then I travelled overseas for three years and found my passion.
Melissa: How do you know what you want to do when you’ve had no life experience? There’s a 60 per cent dropout rate of kids going from the Sunny Coast to Brisbane when they go straight to uni, it’s too many big changes in their life – being away from home, having to be more independant, study, socially it can be very isolating, and they drop out and don’t return to it.
Paula: I don’t think they’re given much education around what it means to go to university that young either, it is a big financial commitment either your parents are paying for or else you end up having to pay for down the track.

Profile: What are your thoughts on formal education versus on-the-job training?

Paula: I can speak on very good authority on this one because I’ve just hired a full time graphic designer. I’m self-taught on Photoshop, everything I’ve learnt is from workshops and going to seminars and doing online training, and so seeing someone who’s had formal education, I’m so jealous. She has three or four years of experience learning the tools, stuff you fumble along and learn yourself, eventually you’ll get there, but there’s something to be said for having great groundroots where you can explore and expand on your own education. If I had my time again I probably would have gone back and done some formalised training.
Anthea: I don’t think there’s any hard and fast rule, as everyone learns individually, some people learn best through being given an assignment and making it their own and learning to create through that way and other people are brilliant bookworms, so I don’t think there’s any hard and fast rule.
Paula: There’s something about being hands-on that tests your own values and that’s what defines you in any career, your work ethic and where you draw the line in the sand, what’s okay in the workplace? And that’s the stuff uni doesn’t teach you, you might work in team environments, but for the most part you’re solitary and you’re working to structure, so when you come out and make decisions that affect another person or dealing with clients and customers, that’s huge.

Profile: What is your personal experience? Did you go to uni or TAFE?

Paula: I started working, carrying photographer’s bags for a year and picked it up and started learning. I was self taught.
Laureen: I did a Diploma in Visual Arts and then was accepted into a Bachelor at VCA, but I ended up having a baby instead and moving to the country.
Melissa: I’m a registered nurse, but I trained the old way, hospital-based, so it was all practical and you would come out into blocks of four or six weeks and do your theoretical and some clinical. It was interesting when they changed it in New South Wales, they were the first to change to university-training.
Anthea: I finished Year 12 and mucked about doing all sorts of things, I was a bit of a free spirit, so I wanted to do fruit picking work and follow the seasons and then I accidentally fell in love. Then I did my Diploma of Finance and went into the finance industry for 13 years and then decided I’d had enough. I did a Diploma and the rest was self taught – starting my own business and being hands on.

Profile: What would your advice be for the younger generation, based on your experience?

Laureen: Follow your heart, follow your dreams and your passions, but also know that hard work is very important.
Anthea: Nothing is permanent. I’ve changed careers a couple of times, I’ve changed industries four times and it hasn’t put me behind at all, each thing I’ve learnt from one industry has helped me in another industry, so there is no permanence. For a 17-year-old who’s going out of their head with hormones and there are all of these other distractions to suddenly have the serious elders stand in front of them and say, ‘Decide on what you’re going to do for the rest of your life, now!’ That’s terrifying and I think that leads to poor decision making.
Laureen: Life is so not what it is when you’re 17, when you’re in your 30s and 40s it will be something completely different, it’s always changing.
Anthea: And half the jobs and careers that are around today, are going to be obsolete or changed into something different when these kids are 40 or 50 anyway, because the world is evolving so quickly.
Paula: In this social media age, my advice would be to go and find mentors to approach and follow. There are so many people you can approach these days on social media, it’s amazing, don’t be afraid to ask them because I’ve been so amazed by some people who I’ve walked up to thinking, ‘I’m so nervous about speaking to this person’, and then they turn around and they’re the kindest person and give you the biggest chunks of gold. Ask, ‘How did you get what I want?’
Melissa: There’s too much emphasis on formal education, but the bottom line is you follow your passion and your interest, then you can look at what educational paths you need to follow, it doesn’t mean it needs to be formal. And find a mentor, I’ve got a lot of really good mentors in nursing and in business and it inspires you.

The Creek Tavern
All preconceived ideas of a tavern experience disappeared from the moment I walked into The Creek Tavern at Mountain Creek.
Welcomed by assistant manager Brett McRae, who was friendly and attentive, the lunching ladies started our outing with crisp glasses of Tomich Pinot Grigio from Adelaide Hills, the ideal precursor on a warm Sunshine Coast day.
With so many tantalising options on the menu, as well as the specials board, there was something to suit all tastes and appetites. Popular choices included the Euro parmigiana – a 350g crumbed chicken breast with prosciutto, Napoli sauce, char grilled eggplant, capsicum, sliced olives and feta cheese, served with coleslaw and beer battered chips.
Other delicious dishes sampled included crispy salt and pepper squid tentacles served with Mediterranean-style salad, semi-dried tomatoes, chargrilled pepper strips, black olives, red onions and feta cheese, topped with mango salsa; (fish of the day) swordfish steak on a bed of sand crab and kipfler potatoes with baby broccolini with lime, chilli and coriander dressing; and fresh local prawn salad with mangoes, avocado and lime aioli.
As a massive burger fan, I couldn’t resist the lunchtime special – beef sliders with tomato relish, caramelised onions and cheese, served with chips.
Everyone’s meals went down an absolute treat. Two of us were tempted enough to squeeze in dessert. I had the lemon meringue tart, while one of my guests enjoyed the decadent chocolate fondant – both were absolutely divine and caused a bit of food envy around the table!
If you’re looking for a generous serving of delicious comfort food, I highly recommend a visit to The Creek Tavern, a Sunshine Coast family owned and operated pub and bistro boasting gaming, sports bar and TAB, open 10am to midnight, seven days.
The Creek Tavern
172 Karawatha Dr, Mountain Creek
PHONE: 5478 1333

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