Managing the Education Requirement of a Job Posting

Do you need to have that particular degree, certification or diploma to get that job?

For a while there, degrees were being used as a filter by many employers, which had the effect of causing a loss of value for the degrees and many otherwise qualified applicants feeling as though there was no point in applying for those jobs. This helped to lead to many employers seeing a shortage of qualified workers and people with degrees getting jobs they were grossly overqualified for (and getting paid peanuts to do) or not remotely qualified for (and failing miserably on the job). Employers would often say that they were using the degrees as a way to prove that people could do things like manage their time, manage deadlines, work well with others, and of course, (hopefully) have a related education. But this was not generally the case, with many employers finding that having a degree doesn’t necessarily mean that the employee will work out!

Although the degree may not always help someone with the job, there are still many job postings which have degree/certification/diploma as part of the job requirements or something that will help an applicant become preferred. If you don’t have that level of education, should you just bypass the job altogether?

Well, it really depends on the job and the degree!

Do You Need the Degree?

This is the first question you should ask of yourself and the job before you decide whether to go for it or not. This is also an excellent reason to hold an informational interview, giving you the chance to ask if the degree is necessary and if there is anything which can be used in its stead. You may be surprised to find that for the right combination of skills and background, you can skip the degree requirements entirely.

Obviously, this isn’t always going to be the case. For example, if you’re planning to work in engineering or as a nurse, you will need the education to back it up! In this case, the education builds you up to be able to handle and understand the more technical elements of the job so that you don’t have to spend as much time in training on the job.

If the degree or diploma is part of the ‘preferred’ list, then it is far more likely that you will be able to cobble together a combination of work experience and skills to cover it. If it’s under the required list, you may still be able to pull it off, but we would strongly recommend doing an informational interview to learn more about the job and see how having the degree would put you over the top or whether it actually matters. You may be surprised either way.

How Can I Sidestep the Educational Requirements?

Assuming you discover that the degree/diploma/certification is not a 100% requirement, how can you compete with those who do have it? There are a few ways you can pull this off and it really depends on you:

  1. Start your education and tell the employer you’re doing it. If the education requirement is something that will be short and simple to do, such as Serving it Right, First Aid, Foodsafe, Microsoft Office, or a program that won’t take long to do and is possible for you to do, then try to do it! You can still apply for the job and tell the employer that you are currently upgrading your knowledge to match their needs. If nothing else, having certification in things like Microsoft or First Aid is universally useful, so even if this job doesn’t pan out, you’ve got a leg up for other ones.Obviously, this may not be feasible to do. Education takes money, time, energy, and resources that you may not have access to. But if you do have the ability to improve your skills and knowledge, you really should take advantage of it. Thanks to online video, email, and internet classes, you may even be able to get a lot of training done online for cheap or even free. You can also check in with job search resources to see if there is funding available for longer programs.
  2. The right resume format is a great way to bypass or at least minimize education that you may be missing. In this case, we would go with a functional resume that highlights your skills, or a chronological resume that highlights your work experience (depending on how steady your work experience has been and how relevant it would be). When you get to the education part, highlight things like your achievements, any relevant on-job training, and awards you’ve received rather than focusing on your degrees or diplomas.The trick to pulling this off is to make sure you understand how your job and life skills relate and equate to a degree or diploma that is needed by the job. For example, if the job wants a generic sort of BA (Bachelor of Arts), then you can easily translate life skills such as writing, communication, working with others, critical thinking, and problem solving. (Have concrete examples and concrete number of years using those skills. This is not the time to be vague!) So, you could say: I have five years of experience writing content for the web. In my last three jobs, I was put in charge of marketing teams to promote new services for my employer (make sure to specific the type of services or products: financial, employment, legal, etc.) And of course, make sure that your skills and knowledge matches the needs of the job! By being careful, specific, and open about your skills and experiences, you may be able to cover the bases that a degree covers. And you can always see about getting the education later if your employer wants it.
  3. Build the relationship! This is probably the most critical thing you can do to sidestep not only the educational requirements of a job post, but many of the other supposed barriers. We’ve spoken many times before about how employers hire people (not resumes), how people want people who can match their vision and needs (not robots) and even how working for small businesses can be far more beneficial to you than working for large businesses (namely because you have more chances to connect with the CEO, more creative opportunities, and more cross training).

There are a few ways you can build this relationship up, but the easiest thing to do is learn everything you can about the business you want to work for and then email managers or even the CEO and offer up suggestions for how it can be made even better (using your knowledge of course). They can then choose to take you up on doing the work or simply implement your suggestions. It’s a risk-you may get ignored or not get brought on to the work-but audacity is always better than doing nothing. You can also do things like ask for informational interviews, invite a higher up for lunch or coffee and talk about their business (but not a job post) and in short, make yourself into a human being worth knowing rather than a piece of paper. Even if you don’t land a job, you have landed some networking and that is always valuable.

We would be completely hypocritical if we said that you don’t need any education to get a job (I mean, we are a training school after all!) However, you also may not need to do as much training and schooling as you think to land a good job. Education is always a good thing to have; however, the reality is that many people struggle with classrooms, are trying to make ends meet, or simply don’t have the opportunity to get post secondary schooling. These things are nice to have, but as you can see, your life experiences, other achievements, and your ability to make a relationship are more likely to help you get the job than a degree. And remember, it’s never too late to an education anyway!

-Charlene Mattson is an author, instructor, and mother of two in northern British Columbia. She is also a certified Microsoft Office Specialist (2010-2016 Core Microsoft programs and Expert in Word). She has a passion for writing, learning, and helping others learn new skills.

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