Tuesday, 26 May 2009

10 Ways Your Degree Will Improve Your Employability

Is there anyway you can prevent going from this:

image credit Wake Forest University

To This!?

Let's face it. You joined university in the firm belief that a degree would enhance your employability job prospects. Why should you think any differently? That's certainly the impression that's given off from the prospectii and the mantras that a broadcast in all areas of society. Figures are wheeled out to show how you how your earning power in the long run is so much better than someone who hasn't got a degree. Well that's assuming you aren't carrying too much debt of course. And it assumes that are jobs available in the first place!

So how are you going to get a job after graduating especially in a recession?

There are differences of course with regard to the type of degree you have. If you have a degree based on the natural sciences or technology then its probably the case that you had a specific career in mind. The same goes for particular professional services such as accounting and law. It might also be the case that you see your degree as a step on the way to an academic research and /or teaching career. Where things become a bit less certain is with those degrees that cover what might be termed 'managerial' subjects.

There is a paradox with such degrees. They provide a young graduate with exposure to a raft of concepts tools and ideas which can be very helpful to business. The problem is they tend to be 'analytical and reflexive' and when trading is tough businesses want 'doers' not 'thinkers'. Not only that business graduates are caught in a cleft stick. Join a big corporate (even they aren't recruiting as much as they used to at the moment) and when they do you become a very small cog in the machine, you are a front line soldier expected to do the grunt work that the previous tranche of graduate starters now shovel your way. You will be beguiled with promises of career progression, expected to sell your soul and time to the company to find after 5 years you are simply a number in the company's 'Graduate Idol' competition where there is only one winner. On the other hand you can join a small entrepreneurial business. Usually the boss has his ideas and no time for 'fancy college' stuff. It's 'My Way or The Highway'. Invariably the entrepreneur wants to know you can help him sell 'more of his stuff'. You might have a fancy title but you'll have no power and you'll be judged by what you bring in not how fantastic your market analyses are.

So 10 Ways To Get A Job With A Degree:

1. Don't be gullible and expect your degree to get you a job

2. Use your connections in every way possible. Many graduates today come from families who aren't 'connected' in the same way that richer families are so this is a major problem.

3. Do something for a business that shows 'willing'. This doesn't mean being taken for a ride. It means exploiting the phenomenon of reciprocation. Help people and they tend to help you.

4. Volunteer. It might hurt financially in the short term but it shows your committed and it gives the prospective employer a chance to see you in action.

5. Really pay attention to social skills. Deference where its due. Don't go bragging about 'my degree' Earn a reputation as a problem solver and a safe pair of hands.

6. Listen. listen.listen. Offer alternatives and suggestions, not prescriptions and must do's. Forget the typical 'recruitment' and 'HR' advice for interview techniques. Everybody follows those tips so by definition you will not come across as 'different' or 'interesting'. Instead study sales presentation skills. These will enable you get across the reasons why anyone should consider employing you. Check out How To Persuade People To Buy From You for more ideas.

7. Set up your own business.

8. Use your bachelors degree to get a Masters Degree. Re-read 1-7 above.

9. Put the 'subject' of your degree to one side. Ponder on what the experience of higher education has given and translate that into 'benefits' for an employer. i.e.what can you 'do' for them with your research, team work, presentation skills

10. In an interview spend alot of time asking about the interviewers business/organisation. (Be careful not to be patronising or appear as a consultant)Uncover problems and challenges they face, THEN match your skills and knowledge to them as solutions. Use phrases such as 'so am I right in understanding...', 'one thing you might do in that situation is...'

11. BONUS tip. Avoid going into 'super salesman' mode at all costs. It won't wash and it will make the employer's toes curl. If on the off chance you are expected to be table thumping, hard nosed and brash then be very wary of the type of organisation you are getting into. In 9 cases out of 10 business are NOT looking for the next Apprentice In the UK The programme has been criticised in the media for suggesting that success in the business world requires possession of unsavoury qualities. Terence Blacker of The Independent newspaper, for example, said that he believed that the programme falsely linked success with being "nasty, disloyal, greedy and selfish, claims the Wikipedia article.

12 Super BONUS tip. Don't waste your time and emotional energy with recruitment companies. You will simply be treated as their commodity. They are not 'talent' spotters they are 'job' matchers. Do yourself a favour and put effort into direct approach and formal letter. By all means attach a resume/CV, but best of all give something of yourself in a biographic story that aims to connect with your prospective employer, and please don't say 'I liked the look of your web site'


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I find it difficult to consider employers who also hire GED and high school grads to the same position. Why did I go through all the time money and effort to get my bba? If i could do it all over again i would have gotten my GED, skipped college, and gotten an entry level job...

  3. Its stubborn to say that its a complete waste of time going for a degree. Sure some people can do very well on their own but as this article mention don't expect the degree to get a job for you. You have to put your own spin in on it to really make it work for you. Just because you have a degree in information technology doesn't mean you're right for the job if all you know is textbook material. Build experience and go from there, that works for everything else.

  4. great tips - all seems to make sense now just to apply it... my degree wont really tie into a direct/specialist job (sociology) so im learning how to apply those skills to the open market just as is suggested here with for example presentation skills. do some research on your wanted future employer/business they like to see in interviews that you did some homework/leg work.