On the face of it, Harry Potter did not have a traditional learning experience at school. During his fifth year at Hogwarts, he achieved seven OWL passes (Ordinary Wizarding Levels). Although Harry qualified to take NEWTs (Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test) in Charms, Herbology, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Transfiguration and Potions, he didn’t take the exams, instead leaving Hogwarts at the end of his sixth year in order to track down and destroy the remaining Horcruxes. And yet, Harry went on to become an Auror for the Ministry of Magic, a job which Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix points out requires at least five NEWTs at grade ‘exceeds expectations’ to qualify for. So what else did Harry Potter do during his time at Hogwarts which helped him to succeed?
The HEA Employability Framework (2016) offers an approach to defining and developing a broad set of skills, values and behaviours in order to help students to succeed, at University and in life. By comparing some of these skills, values and behaviours to Harry Potter’s experiences in Hogwarts and beyond, it’s possible to see how important Harry’s experiences outside school were in helping him to shape his success. Harry has a strongly developed social and cultural awareness acquired during his up-bringing in the Muggle world. This very particular form of inter-cultural competence manifests itself in Harry’s knowledge and understanding of Muggle ways and his ability to question wizard practices, never taking things at face value. One could argue that being brought up as a Muggle stops Harry from being so in awe of Voldemort, freeing him up to challenge Voldemort across the book series.
One of Harry’s specialist skills, the ability to speak Parseltongue, comes in handy at the zoo in The Philosopher’s Stone, but more importantly enables him to speak the Parseltongue password to access the Chamber of Secrets in Book 2, thus killing the basilisk. Harry displays real confidence, resilience and adaptability, putting up with life in the cupboard under the stairs, making the decision to leave school to pursue the Horcruxes or perfecting the Patronus charm in order to fight the Dementors. Perhaps Harry’s best quality, though, is his bravery. What 17 year old would so readily accept the need to die in order to prevent Voldemort’s continued hold over the magic world?
As we can see above, it is Harry’s broad set of skills, values and behaviours which enable him to be successful, not the qualifications he obtained at Hogwarts. Being able to articulate his experiences outside school are what makes Harry stand out to his employer, making him such a great example of employability.
This article was written with significant input from Martha (aged 11) and Flora (aged 7).