It's Never Too Late

I bet you know someone who has been working at a low- or mid-level job for years, yet has the smarts and ability to do better. This person has good experience but lacks the education to rise above their current position. Maybe that person is you.

If you believe that there isn't much you can do about it — especially because you've always been working class and never had the money or time to take time off for an education — you're wrong.

Along with experience, one of the most important credentials is an education. In my career, I've met folks who have had the talent to rise steadily to larger, more responsible positions, but they lacked the educational credentials. Education gauges our abilities to do a job. So in lieu of experience, it's a good idea to have a degree. In fact, the lack of a degree can be a stumbling block in a career path.

“Education gauges our abilities to do a job. … In fact, the lack of a degree can be a stumbling block in a career path.”

You may think you don't need that little slip of paper, but that paper is an important symbol of your abilities. In a sense, it shows what you understand, and have learned, as well as demonstrates that you may have the skills needed for management.

But as you get older, there are more responsibilities, which makes it difficult to pursue higher education. Often, college seems impossible when you work to make a living, when you have a family to support and when you cannot take two, three or four years off to obtain a degree. To add salt to the wound, kids who come straight out of college may wind up as your boss.

My wife, both daughters and myself all have bachelor's degrees. Also, I have a master's in environmental planning.

I'm not offering this information to boast how well-educated my family is. Instead, I want to point out that each of us earned our degrees by attending night school while working full-time jobs. We took a couple of classes per semester, did a few hours of class work three nights a week, spent several hours studying, and a few years later, we all graduated. Sounds simple, doesn't it?

Well it's not. Admittedly, it's a lot of work. There were years without watching TV, hurried meals and many nights of fighting to stay awake. However, if we didn't “suffer” during those years, we would have been working humdrum jobs for less pay and for a smaller retirement package. Not as many doors would have been open for us. We would have been drones instead of managers, CPAs and accountants. Additionally, we would have lower salaries and less flexibility.

If a few years ago you had followed the same path as my family did, you would have graduated by now — or at least be on your way toward graduating. Perhaps you would have been the first person in your family to have a college degree!

What does this have to do with managing solid waste? If you don't know, perhaps you should check out another field. Managing solid waste is a complex, highly skilled profession. It's also very competitive in both the public and private sectors. You need all the tools you can acquire to play in this sandbox. And, it's never too late.

Got a question about your solid waste operations? Contact Bill Knapp c/o Waste Age at 6151 Powers Ferry Rd., Atlanta, Ga. 30339. Phone (770) 618-0112.

The columnist is an independent solid waste consultant for governments and private organizations. He was formerly with the city of Los Angeles' refuse division.