Degree-less and Doomed???

Posted by on January 8, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Degree-less and Doomed???

Degree-less and Doomed???  You have got to be kidding.

I am all for a college degree. In fact I have a couple degrees myself. But for many people, getting the college degree didn’t happen either by plan or by circumstances. Despite this they have built a good career holding the types of professional jobs despite the fact most their peers in similar positions are required to have degrees.

How does this happen?

Simple actually. These degree-less people happened to join the right company and because they were smart and capable and learned quickly, they were promoted to higher level positions.

This happened to a friend of mine as well as a number of my clients. Their stories are always similar. As they were climbing the career ladder they always intended to get a degree, it was just that they were too busy doing their job and raising families to set aside the time to get back to school. After 10-15 years of experience, the issue of the degree became somewhat mute.

That is, until they were laid off. After years of professional success, they are now competing degree-less in an open market against other, sometimes less experienced people with degrees.  Worse, they are automatically eliminated from even being considered for jobs because 15 years ago they didn’t graduate from college.

Some employers recognize the “School of Hard Knocks” as a substitute for a college education but right or wrong most do not. Therefore, for the job seeker, the lack of a degree must be rendered as irrelevant as possible in order to have a successful job search. Here are some strategies my clients have found to be successful to overcome the lack of a college degree:

Intensify the search towards the “hidden job market” and avoid over-reliance on published job listings. Published job postings in today’s economy will attract a lot of competition. Improve your competitive position and target the hidden market where the competition is less and leveraging a network connection pulls more weight.

If you did attend college but did not graduate, list the college on your resume anyway. List the school, its location and years attended. (You can drop the years if you want.) Indicate the subject you studied but of course do not claim you were awarded degree.  You do not need to mention how many credits you completed, or you did not finish or provide any other excuses. Save it for the interview. That is, if you are even asked about it.

List other training, workshops and seminars you have taken that are relevant to the job. Too many to list and not enough room? Simply calculate the number of hours of any professional training you have had on any topic. On your resume say, “More than 500 hours of professional training on topics such as….”, and list topics relevant to the job. Skip mentioning the low level or basic skill classes such as Microsoft Office or sexual harassment training. The point here is to demonstrate the depth of your knowledge in your profession to offset the degree issue.

Use the Feel-Felt-Found technique to diffuse the issue when asked.  The best thing to do when dealing with a potential deal breaker in your background is to have a great strategy for handling the interviewers concern – in this case your lack of a degree – without sounding defensive.  In sales, the technique is called “Feel- Felt-Found”.
For the experienced degree-less professional it would go like this:  “I understand how you might feel it is important to have a degreed person for this job. In fact, I (or “others”) have felt the same way.  When hiring someone with more limited experience, I look for the degree as assurance a new hire can learn and grow in the job.  However, what I have found – and what my manager’s have found – is that the lack of a degree has never limited what I accomplish in a job.  Nor has the demand of raising a family ever detracted from my work. I am a safe bet and my experience has proven it.”

In every job search we will face some kind of objections. We might be too young, too old, from the wrong industry, have the wrong GPA or any other judgment that employers might have to take us out of the running. Stay in the race.