The debate is practically older than time itself and probably more important now more than ever; what matters most in finding a job – experience or education? The obvious answer is that both are important and an individual with an extensive background with both education and relevant experience will be the ideal person for most positions in today’s job market.
Without a doubt there are many positions that if you don’t have a diploma you will not gain entry. A College Degree and an ever increasing demand for Post Graduate Degrees are now the minimum means of entry. Without the time spent in school you may not even be able to get your foot in the door. There are exceptions but a college degree, besides making you a more-rounded individual and generally speaking a more prepared individual is the very least a recruiter demands in today’s job discussion.
For those of you who are just exiting college and looking for your first position – God Speed! The ideal candidate in this arena will always be an individual who has both an impressive educational background and pertinent experience in your field of choice. If you have worked summers or interned, the likelihood of finding a position right out of school is considerably better than one who spent summers relaxing on the beach.
Though it may sound archaic, recruiters also appreciate a resume and a background that exemplifies a motivated candidate and one that financially assisted in paying for his/her education. Such a fact can be displayed in many ways – part-time jobs, internships, research projects etc., but recruiters do like an individual who partakes in the bottom line of a college and post graduate degree.
Of course a degree only proves that you can succeed in college and process information. Success behind the ivy walls does not equate to success in the real world. Book knowledge is vital for entry and may indeed be the cornerstone of your career, but it will only allow you to go so far without the reality that the business world is an entirely different animal. An animal that will eat you alive without acknowledging that you are no longer in Kansas and that the philosophical discussions you had with your professors are worthless out here without a true understanding of the ways of the world.
Taking direction and team work are two elements that every successful job seeker needs to address, whether you are a “newbie” or an elder statesman in today’s workforce. We no longer have the luxury of having an extensive array of fellow project workers. The last decade and a half have eliminated the bench players and now if you want to accomplish anything you are forced to work with a skeleton crew to achieve success.
Of course if you earned your degree 20 or more years ago, the basics might be applicable but without updates, the facts are that the world has passed you by and with vigor. If you are living off your ancient laurels the problem will be that no one really cares what you achieved in the last century. In a “what have you done for me lately” world, your latest achievements are what is most valuable to an employer – not that certificate gathering dust up on your wall.
Any successful candidate must impress upon the decision-makers that you are current and up to date and that your degree(s) set a standard for all your current knowledge that you continue to expand upon as you mature in your profession. Detail your new talents and explain how they improve not only your own skillset but the bottom-line of your current or potential employer.
There is no doubt that a college degree provides greater financial benefit and the more degrees and subsequent knowledge will result in an even larger pocketbook. A professional degree (JD, MD, MBA) will result in greater financial return than a doctoral degree but a Ph.D. for a slightly smaller paycheck will provide greater stability for those who seek such comfort.
Education is invaluable; the process teaches you systems that will provide benefit throughout your career. Despite the enormous expense and time, I doubt if few students would ever show remorse for the years spent in the classroom. Education and the university environment develops a “better being.” It is not just the classroom facts, the interaction amongst students and the experience of personal growth and maturity that builds the candidates for American Society are the true benefits one gains from college life and the college investment.
A true mix of relevant education and experience will be the key to successful employment today. A Liberal Arts Education does make a profoundly valuable citizen but unless you are going to teach the next generation, you must embellish that undergraduate degree with a marketable post graduate skill that will define you throughout your lengthy professional life.
Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his distinguished career. He currently is between positions and has written more than 50,000 words or 80 blog postings on the topics of job search and career transition. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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