Training for the biggest job in the world

This week a friend of mine was turned down for a junior role in a PR agency because she didn’t have the requisite qualifications. She was hugely frustrated as the job was basically just making tea, photocopying and formatting press releases, but it was the foot in the door she wanted.

As someone with no qualifications in PR (although I’ve just started studying for a PGDip in the subject) I was very sympathetic. Do we place too much emphasis on formal training when what you get on the job is far more valuable? Certainly my journalism Masters wasn’t half as useful as working alongside some patient and seasoned journalists in the early stages of my career. And having been on the end of some very bad PR during my 13 years as a journalist, I could recognise (and hopefully recreate) good PR when I saw it.

And it’s the same in facilities management. It’s a very practical sector, so while qualifications are important (and in some cases, such as health and safety, mandatory), they will never replace the day-to-day skills, knowledge and experience of working in a facilities team. You can study customer service until you can welcome people to your building in 50 languages, but a day working with the concierge of Tower 42, will tell you everything you need to know about how to look after people.  And a week-long management training course will teach you all the theory you need to take on a large team of people, but a day with a difficult direct report will give you the real experience you need to become a better manager.

This emphasis on training and qualifications in our working lives is all the more puzzling when you consider that no training is required, or indeed offered, to people becoming parents (apart from how to ease the difficulty of the child’s arrival) – which I’d argue is the biggest job in the world. Or at least it’s felt like that this week dealing with a nine-year-old with problems with fractions, girlfriends and not-quite-the-right football kit,  a four-year-old who wants to wear heels and make-up to nursery and won’t eat anything which isn’t orange, a new puppy who needs to learn the art of toilet training and a two-year-old daughter who wants the attention the other three are getting.

The good news is of course that much of the professional training we receive translates quite well across to being a parent (particularly those courses on ‘how to deal with difficult people/ customers’). But I must have missed the course which covered diplomacy, counseling, advanced mathematics, cordon bleu cookery, fashion design and style and how to deal with wannabe teenagers.  Still I’ve got at least another 16 years of on-the-job training to become a true parenting professional.

Cathy Hayward