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Does No Degree Mean No Job?

Joe Turner, Career Coach

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Often, while perusing the job postings, you'll see listed under the requirements section wording such as "Bachelor's degree or equivalent."
Does this mean that those without a degree need not apply?

Not necessarily.

Although many corporate cultures require that their employees have a degree regardless of their position or length of experience, others will allow the degree to be trumped by industry experience. This is especially true for those job postings that have a degree "or equivalent" tagged to them. As such, you may have a chance when you lack the degree.  Generally speaking, a degree will usually be mandatory for those younger candidates lacking solid, relevant job experience. The operative word here is "equivalent" and how that is defined.

Sell results instead

While these employers may have different requirements for equivalent experience, a good rule of thumb is to demonstrate performance and results in your previous work. To accomplish this, your goal is to show how you either made money or saved money for your employer. From your work experience, develop as many specific examples as possible of when you actually have done so. If you can attach a dollar value to several of those, so much the better.  Put these in your résumé.

Here are some actual examples:


  • "Responsible for generating 13 new accounts by creating database and mailing piece."

  • "Booked $150,000 in new business for 2007 by contracting with 2 major groups for the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2007." 

  • "Increased revenue by 38 percent from new social market bookings."


  • "Chaired meetings and headed the negotiation discussion that resulted in the settlement of a long protracted contractual and legal issue with the subcontractor and client."

  • "Improved cash collection and debt aging from average 100 days to a more manageable 30 days and realized savings of about $276,000."

  • "Reduced turnover by 45 percent over previous management within 15 months through my training program and development plans."


  • "Won the Leadership and Excellence award in 2007 for outstanding achievements during my project management role." 


  • "Increased our customer satisfaction survey scores by 32 percent on average by training my team on the proper way to provide a great customer experience."


  • "Reduced non-beneficial spending costs by 40 percent by effectively researching and analyzing accounts payable data."

You should also have a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) near the top of your résumé. Also called a "Personal Branding Statement," this is a short, one-sentence "pitch" that describes who you are in about 15 seconds. Your USP should state the single greatest strength you offer and the biggest benefit that you bring to an employer.
Example:
"Hospitality business development professional with a strength in creative sales and marketing techniques that generated $500,000 in new revenue for my employer in 12 months."

You can outweigh the formal education by showing exactly how your specific work has benefited your previous employer.  The bottom line is that employers today, more than ever, want to have problem solvers on board. Though you may have no degree, you can prove yourself a resource that fits into their larger profit and loss picture. If you can demonstrate that, you can get hired.

Summary 
You can overcome the "degree or equivalent" obstacle if you can (a) show proven benefits to hiring you, and (b) they are open-minded or flexible enough to get past the degree hang-up. There will always be some inflexible companies when it comes to having a degree. But, you'll also find those companies who are more impressed with real-world results.

As a recruiter, Joe Turner has spent the past 15 years finding and placing top candidates in some of the best jobs of their careers.  Author of Job Search Secrets Unlocked, Joe has interviewed on radio talk shows and offers free insider job search secrets at: http://www.jobchangesecrets.com


Last Updated: 21/04/2008 - 11:06 AM


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