What to Do When You Lack a Degree | Articles & Tips | WNYJobs.com | Buffalo

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 What to Do When You Lack a Degree

By Joe Stein

For some readers, a dilemma facing them is how to successfully complete their job search without holding a desired degree. Regardless of whether we are referring to a High School or College Degree, you can obtain a good job without holding this certificate. The key is within you and how you carry yourself, what you do in the jobs you have, and how you conduct your job search. 
 
If you are lacking that desired degree, let’s look at some of the things you can do to help improve your job search.
 
·         Understand That You Are Not Alone – It is easy for a Job Seeker to conclude that they are the only one competing for a particular job without a degree. Studies have shown, however, that approximately a quarter of students do not complete their High School education, and of High School graduates, more than half do not achieve a college degree. So, if going back and completing your education is not in the cards, take some comfort in knowing that you are not alone in this situation.
 
·         Required or Preferred? – Always read closely, the Job Posting or Job Description for a position you are interested in. Many positions that you may assume would require a degree, simply state that it is preferred (leaving the door open for you!). It if is required, find out (through your networking) if that really is the case, or simply the result of a sloppy Job Description. The reality is that some positions will require a degree (we should be glad that medical surgeons are in this category), but for many open jobs further research is recommended. The key word to keep in mind is “equivalent”; most positions will substitute an “equivalent” amount of experience for education.
 
·         Don’t Apologize or Overcompensate – You don’t hold a certain degree - that is a fact and can’t be changed unless you obtain it. So don’t apologize for having it missing or become nervous when questioned. If asked, confirm that you do not have one and redirect the conversation toward what you have done. If you are going to let your lack of the degree shake your confidence, then do not seek the position and focus on those that do not require the diploma.
 
·         Gather Non-Degree Resume Builders – There are items you can gather and place on your resume that will help take some of the focus away from you not holding a certain degree. Examples of what you can do include attending seminars, obtaining professional certifications, and participating in volunteering events. The training and experiences will prove invaluable and will serve to help impress the Hiring Manager.
 
·         Resume = Accomplishments – Your Resume must serve as a powerful tool to sell yourself. Make sure your document clearly outlines your accomplishments. Use specific and quantifiable references that spotlight how you have improved productivity, saved money, etc. Numbers stand out to a Resume reader, so state the improved productivity or the cost savings idea you had in terms of numbers. Show on your Resume (and your Cover Letter!) how you have provided value to your previous employers. Customize your important points to the company and what they are seeking to obtain in their new hire. These impressive examples will help serve to differentiate you from those who hold a degree but have not accomplished as much.
 
·         Play to your strengths! - You will want to emphasize your strongest skills and credentials. Directly related to your accomplishments, you should emphasize whatever you possess that provides you a competitive advantage. This may be your proven leadership skills, or your ability to work well within a team - anything that will separate you in a positive manner from others.
 
·         Network – Establishing contacts within different companies can serve to assist you in many ways during your job search. Your contacts can inform you to which companies have cultures that value experience and which ones insist on having the degree. A contact inside an organization can also provide you with the reference or endorsement you may need to nudge ahead of those with a degree in the competition for the open position.
 
·         Get Your Degree – This is, of course, easier for me to write than for you to try to accomplish in the midst of your busy life. Hiring Managers, however, are impressed with people who go back and obtain (or are in process of) that missing degree. It shows a real work ethic and dedication that will even separate you from others who have that diploma.
 
A key to remember is that you can obtain and be a success in a good job without a degree. The challenge may be more difficult, but by focusing on what you do have and what you can accomplish, your chances of obtaining the position desired will significantly increase. Finally, don’t give up, keep striving for that position, and remember job searching can be a numbers game. That next company you apply for may be just the one that recognizes what you can do for them.