No Degree Means No Job?

Anne decided to leave the workforce for a year. When she wanted to come back, her job wasn't available and she can't find work. The problem seems to be she lacks a degree. Dave disagrees.

QUESTION: Anne in Nashville had three years of savings put aside and adopted a little girl. Anne is single and paid out quite a bit of money for daycare. Anne decided to leave the workforce for a year. However, when she wanted to come back, her job was no longer available and she can’t find work. The problem seems to be she lacks a degree. Dave disagrees.

ANSWER: I appreciate what you’re facing, but this idea that you have to have a degree to do what you do is just totally ludicrous. It may be that there are so many people in the workplace that they’re using that to filter out resumes, but for the same reasons you were able to do the job before—your experience and your knowledge—you still have those, and that means you can do the job. If someone is looking to hire in purchasing, and if that’s the area you’re going into and have 30 years of experience and your last job was a six-figure job, to think that if you had a degree like some little wet-nosed kid straight out of school when purchasing would make you competitive with them… I have 300 team members. I would hire you 1,000 times before I’d hire a 22-year-old.

I think your job search process is not getting you to the right kinds of decision-makers more so than your lack of degree is your barrier. Is it a good thing to get a degree? Yes. I bet you out of 300 people I have hired here that we probably didn’t hire 10 of them because of their degree. We hire because somehow in the process of talking to them—sometimes a degree was an indicator—we determined that they could do the job we needed done. That’s really what a hire comes down to. A degree is just an indicator that maybe they can do that. I really do want my CFO to have an accounting degree. There are some things like that. I do want to know the CFO has an accounting background. But this idea that a degree is necessary at your age and your experience level for you to get back to a good position and someday back to a similar position…I just don’t believe that.

I would change the way you’re doing your job hunt. Let me give you a couple of books. One of them is called The Power of Who by Bob Beaudine. It is the proper way to network, not false networking. Fired to Hired by Tory Johnson is very good. Anything Marcus Buckingham writes on career is good. The career book I give away the most is 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller. It also has some good strategies for landing a job. I think you need to change your view of your worth. Somehow, get to people so that they can understand and view your worth accurately. Honestly, if I were hiring for a position and someone walked through the door with 30 years’ experience in that position, that would be—from an employer’s perspective—what I would call a homerun. I don’t think the degree is a problem except it may be a problem with the method you’re using. I would change that.

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