On A-Level results day, a lesson in why they aren't crucial for career success

 
Dave Trott
Follow Dave
Girl getting A-Level results
A-Levels are not the be-all and end-all

In advertising, lots of the really great people didn’t do A levels.

They quit school and started work. They were hustlers, doers, they didn’t want to waste their time memorising things and writing essays.They were in a hurry. They wanted to be working, earning money.

That was their A levels.

They started in the post-room usually. 16 year-olds learning the workings of an ad agency by going around to every department every day, and seeing how everything worked. Then seeing which job they liked. Then seeing how they could get into that department. Then learning how to get on in that department. So that by the time they were 18 they had a really good understanding of how to get ahead. They’d already done two years study in their chosen profession.

Then, while the A level students went to university, these guys were working their way up inside the ad agencies. In three years time they knew the jobs really well, they’d been working their way up.

So that by the time the university graduates came for an interview, the people who left school at 16 were five years ahead. They’d probably be asked to help train the university graduates. More often than not they couldn’t be bothered. They were too busy hustling to get ahead.

By now they were running departments, making big money, they had cars and apartments. They were involved in running agencies, not learning how they worked. Meanwhile the university students had to start at the bottom. Back where the other guys had started at 16. Going round every department and learning a little bit of everything. Until they worked out which department they liked. And then they could see if the guy who’d started there at 16 would take them on.

The guys who started at 16 in the post room, included the following:

Charles Saatchi – owned Saatchi & Saatchi.

Peter Mead – owned Abbott Mead Vickers.

(Sir) Frank Lowe – owned Lowe Howard Spink.

(Lord) Tim Bell – owned Chime Communications.

All of them multi-millionaires.

None of them have A Levels or degrees, but most of the people who work for them do.

This article was originally published 13 August 2015

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

Related articles