Why a Bachelor’s Degree Won’t Get You Hired: The Experts Weigh In

At skillset, we’re always trying to think of ways we can help people expand their knowledge, develop their career, and gain more confidence in their jobs or in their job search. That means, by definition, we’re helping people move beyond the mindset of “I have my degree, now I need to find a job that matches it.”

Increasingly, that takes us to the question of “What does a modern job candidate look like?” “What should one look like?” It seems more clear than ever that job seekers and professionals need more in their arsenal than a college degree.

There is definitely a debate to be had about whether or not attending a four-year anniversary is the best way to prepare for one’s eventual career at all, but most serious professionals (and employers) agree that it’s the best place to start.

But that’s just it: A bachelor’s degree is more of a starting point than the defining characteristic of your career, or certainly of your qualifications.

To dig deeper, we asked several employment experts to give us their thoughts on how close a four-year degree got candidates to being “qualified” for a specific job opening. Their answers are enlightening.

 

On the Value of the Real World:

“I actually don’t think a “degree in X” is enough for most positions these days, so in the future expectations will shift towards also having actual real-world experience of some kind as a minimum, as well as (if relevant) a degree.

It’s so easy for anyone to get experience while they’re studying – maybe even while they’re still at school, before they start their degree – that when an employer is faced with ten resumes from graduates who are all academically similar, with similar degrees from similar colleges, excellent marks/GPAs and so on, they have to then start looking at the real world experience the applicants have gained so far in order to decide which one of them to hire – or even bring in for interview.

There’s internships (although the rights and wrongs of unpaid internships are a different matter altogether), volunteering, freelance work, contributing to open source projects, building mobile apps and games, starting your own small business – anyone with enough ambition can always think of some way of gaining real-world experience way before they have to start looking for their first “real” job, if indeed that’s what they’re going to do when they finish their degree.

Obviously comparing real-world experience is more qualitative than quantitive, and that’s different from academic results – you can be fairly confident that someone with a GPA of 4.0 is stronger academically than someone with a GPA of 2.5.

But how do you compare the value of real world experience? Is someone’s experience gained from 12 months of volunteering for a charity “better” or “more relevant” than someone else who’s spent a year developing a 99c iPhone game, or learning the ups and downs of business by running an eBay or an Etsy store?

Obviously it depends on the employer’s requirements, so another part of deciding whether someone’s “qualified” for a given job might end up being their ability to make an educated guess at what their potential employers’ real-world experience requirements actually are, and tailoring their activities to suit.”

Mathew Lancey, 10-Year Recruiting Veteran and Trainer at Bullhorn

 

On Needing to Learn & Adapt to Changing Industries and Skills:

 

“Although having “a degree in X” will still be important, it is not enough.

Even now, employers look beyond GPA, school, and degree when considering an applicant. In the tech industry, I believe that skills that are now important but will become even more important as tasks become more automated and technology changes, is being resourceful and being resilient.

A worker who is able to pick up new tools and use the tools to their advantage is going to be very valuable. Someone who sees change as an opportunity to grow will be able to solve problems in a way that someone more old-fashioned cannot. It wouldn’t surprise me if in the future, a strong job applicant is one who is able to learn and adapt quickly, rather than someone with years of experience doing the same thing.”

Nisha Garigarn, Co-Founder of Perqy

 

Overall, the answers we received from hiring experts were familiar to us at Skillset. The modern hiring process hinges on proof of working knowledge of real-world skills, the ability to adapt to ever-changing industry landscapes and needs, and a continual focus on learning and development.

It’s not shocking, but it bears repeating: The career development process doesn’t end with a bachelor’s degree. At that point, it’s only just begun.

 

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