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Asking: "So where did you go to school?" in conversation

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  • Jul 6th, 2012 4:06 pm
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[OP]
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Jun 11, 2010
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Asking: "So where did you go to school?" in conversation

I remember reading a thread here a while back, where people were discussing the cultural quirk of asking someone "what they do" shortly after meeting them. Some mentioned that it can be awkward, especially as an ice-breaker if people are unemployed or underemployed. It also doesn't seem as relevant as asking them what their interests are, which would seem to branch into better, more interesting conversation than having them try to explain their industry-specific job to you.

.. but what about, "Where did you go to school?" This one actually bit me in the arse once when I asked my former boss this question shortly after getting hired. I remember he mumbled something in return and I politely said, "Pardon?" Finally, he blurted out: "I did a year at ITT Tech". Dead silence for 10 seconds. Meanwhile, he knew full well that I was a 4yr alum. of a major Canadian university. I think I may have said something awkward and stupid like, "Hey that's not so bad eh".. and later kicked myself for basically patronizing my boss for having an inferior education.

This led me to thinking. I've read some people who say that education ceases to matter after your first job.. but after some reflection, I have to disagree. Perhaps several years down the line it ceases to matter as much, but in my first couple of jobs, I find that I strongly identified with my education. It was (and still is to me) the backbone of my credentials. It is the 4yr foundation under which my job currently sits. Every job I get, I like to think I earned with working hard in school for (when you think of it) a relatively long time! I'd feel lousy to think that all of that time, money and effort was wasted on something I could have done out of high school. So when people tell me that school doesn't matter in the working world, it is a little offensive. It's like telling me that I wasted my time running the gauntlet, because I could have drove to the finish line instead.
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Sr. Member
Nov 15, 2008
800 posts
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It doesn't matter. There is very little variation of quality between Canada's universities. You can go anywhere and come out a star if you have the brains. A rhodes scholar is just as likely to be churned out from the University of Saskatchewan as from McGill or U of T. Anyone who thinks they are special because of the Canadian uni they went to is a dooshbag.
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Apr 6, 2004
970 posts
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Newmarket, Ontario
vaportrails wrote: This led me to thinking. I've read some people who say that education ceases to matter after your first job.. but after some reflection, I have to disagree. Perhaps several years down the line it ceases to matter as much, but in my first couple of jobs, I find that I strongly identified with my education. It was (and still is to me) the backbone of my credentials. It is the 4yr foundation under which my job currently sits. Every job I get, I like to think I earned with working hard in school for (when you think of it) a relatively long time! I'd feel lousy to think that all of that time, money and effort was wasted on something I could have done out of high school. So when people tell me that school doesn't matter in the working world, it is a little offensive. It's like telling me that I wasted my time running the gauntlet, because I could have drove to the finish line instead.
Education still matters but in a vague cookie cutter sort of way. Basically jobs might ask for a specific 4 year degree but once past your first job they could care less where you got your degree and what your marks were. So I wouldn't say education is meaningless because for many jobs you won't get your foot in the door without the required degree, however beyond having that rubber stamp, aka a degree, it does cease to matter.
Sr. Member
Jun 9, 2006
836 posts
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Thornhill
Why would you be ashamed of where you went? That seems odd to me. I wouldn't value someone who went to Waterloo for Accounting more than someone who went to York for Accounting (as an example).

It is just as weird as when someone is ashamed of their job IMO. You do what you do for a reason, whether it is for income, helping out the family, gaining experience, temporary position until something better, etc.
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Jun 29, 2009
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Toronto
It does and doesn't matter.

The main reason which school you go to matter esp for new grads is because employers has no other measurement of your ability and skills. Some schools are tougher than others, different programs at different universities are better, etc.

As you have actual work experience school doesn't matter anymore because then employer have more measurement of your ability through your experience and references.

If you think you are better just because of your school then yes you are a *****. For employer, given 2 candidates, new grads with no experience that seemingly have same skills, school is just a tool for differentiation.
Sr. Member
Apr 13, 2007
509 posts
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Whenever someone asked Malcolm X where he went to school, he would just say "Books".
[OP]
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Jun 11, 2010
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anon666 wrote: It doesn't matter. There is very little variation of quality between Canada's universities. You can go anywhere and come out a star if you have the brains. A rhodes scholar is just as likely to be churned out from the University of Saskatchewan as from McGill or U of T. Anyone who thinks they are special because of the Canadian uni they went to is a dooshbag.
Right, but ITT Tech is not a Canadian university. It's a private, for-profit American diploma mill that I'm sure would offer 2yr "bachelor degrees" if Canadian laws didn't prohibit the sort of flagrant degree-crapping that goes on in the US. Quite frankly, I did feel a little bit embarrassed for him. Why? Because he was my boss and I expect my boss to have at the very least, the same level of education that I have. I don't know if making a consolatory comment was the right way to go, because it did seem to make the situation awkward.

Imagine if you had a CGA designation and your boss did some 6 month accounting program at DeVry. Ditto for engineering. Your boss is giving you projects to rubber-stamp because he/she lacks the credentials to do so. It's important that we observe some sort of pecking order, simply to avoid these awkward situations.

To everyone who replied, I agree that all Canadian 4yr institutions (except online ones) should be pretty much equal in the eyes of employers, with the exception of a few of the more reputable programs offered by certain schools in specific fields.
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Jun 11, 2001
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Since I didn't complete Uni/College, I usually answer with "Streets of Toronto"... they get a chuckle.
...zzz...zzz...zzz...

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Jr. Member
Feb 20, 2012
176 posts
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NORTH YORK
vaportrails wrote: Right, but ITT Tech is not a Canadian university. It's a private, for-profit American diploma mill that I'm sure would offer 2yr "bachelor degrees" if Canadian laws didn't prohibit the sort of flagrant degree-crapping that goes on in the US. Quite frankly, I did feel a little bit embarrassed for him. Why? Because he was my boss and I expect my boss to have at the very least, the same level of education that I have. I don't know if making a consolatory comment was the right way to go, because it did seem to make the situation awkward.

Imagine if you had a CGA designation and your boss did some 6 month accounting program at DeVry. Ditto for engineering. Your boss is giving you projects to rubber-stamp because he/she lacks the credentials to do so. It's important that we observe some sort of pecking order, simply to avoid these awkward situations.

To everyone who replied, I agree that all Canadian 4yr institutions (except online ones) should be pretty much equal in the eyes of employers, with the exception of a few of the more reputable programs offered by certain schools in specific fields.

Did you just land from space? HELLO?
Sr. Member
Jan 8, 2007
729 posts
46 upvotes
vaportrails wrote: Right, but ITT Tech is not a Canadian university. It's a private, for-profit American diploma mill that I'm sure would offer 2yr "bachelor degrees" if Canadian laws didn't prohibit the sort of flagrant degree-crapping that goes on in the US. Quite frankly, I did feel a little bit embarrassed for him. Why? Because he was my boss and I expect my boss to have at the very least, the same level of education that I have. I don't know if making a consolatory comment was the right way to go, because it did seem to make the situation awkward.

Imagine if you had a CGA designation and your boss did some 6 month accounting program at DeVry. Ditto for engineering. Your boss is giving you projects to rubber-stamp because he/she lacks the credentials to do so. It's important that we observe some sort of pecking order, simply to avoid these awkward situations.

To everyone who replied, I agree that all Canadian 4yr institutions (except online ones) should be pretty much equal in the eyes of employers, with the exception of a few of the more reputable programs offered by certain schools in specific fields.
Helloooo indeed.

My first real job the boss (political appointee) had no post secondary education and he was managing not only uni grads but lawyers. Next job me and my degree reported to a guy with no post secondary education (nepotism). Most recent job, same deal, none of the managers had degrees (earned their jobs being cut throat sob's). And these three positions were in widely different fields.

Learned a while ago to go easy on the cultured or intellectual talk around managers.
Deal Addict
Jul 11, 2010
2959 posts
137 upvotes
It is an awkward question to ask your boss because most likely they're baby boomers and most likely don't have an extensive or prestigious post-secondary education.

They usually got their jobs/position either through performance or seniority and have literally decades of experiences in their field.

Honestly, education matters very little outside of academia in Canada once you have years of experience under your belt.

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