‘JT & Dale Talk Jobs’ is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country and can be found at JTandDale.com.
Dear J.T. and Dale: I graduated last summer with an AA degree in web design from a technical school. After several months of job searching, I became very frustrated with the fact companies want a bachelor’s degree, even though I have the same knowledge, or even more, when it comes to websites. What can I do? — Paul
Dale: In this economy, where companies have more applicants than they need, it’s easy to throw in requirements, many of which seem just plain arbitrary. However, there is a logic to requiring a four-year degree. Think of what it suggests about the person: probably from a decent home; probably has decent communication and math skills; can complete assignments and can successfully put up with years of bureaucracy. Are there exceptions? All the time. But employers are playing the odds, and for many jobs the right degree increases the odds of the person fitting the corporate culture.
J.T.: Speaking of fitting in: Employers hire people based on personality first (whether they can see the person working well with existing employees), aptitude second (ability to adapt to the environment and learn quickly), and experience third (and this includes having the appropriate educational background). So, knowing this, your best option is to network as much as you can, demonstrating to potential employers that you have the personality and aptitude. That way, they’ll care less about your lack of a bachelor’s degree because they’ll already feel confident in you ability to integrate into their environment. In sum, stop competing based on education and start competing on other strengths. You’ll soon find people don’t care nearly as much about the type of degree as listings of job requirements would suggest.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, JTODonnell.com, and of the blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com.
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