4 Tips for Entering the Workforce without a Degree
Launching a professional or corporate career without a college degree can be a challenge…or so our culture would have us believe. There are plenty of job market blogs and workforce "experts" who will rush to tell you that a four year college degree is an essential tool in today's labor force, and without one, workers may have a hard time breaking into a stable position and a middle class lifestyle. But these gloomy warnings won't do you much good if you simply don't have a four year degree and have no plans to obtain one any time soon. If this describes your situation, you certainly aren't alone. As you move forward and find your way in the working world, keep these considerations in mind.
1. Bank on your relationships.
The old wisdom still holds true: It's not what you know, it's who you know. If you make a sincere effort to show interest in the lives and goals of others, you might identify ways to help them meet those goals. Your skills and talents can form a link in a vital chain, and as soon as you find a way to make your skills valuable to other people, you'll starting working your way up the ladder, degree or no degree. Circulate, broaden your human network, polish your speaking and listening skills, and make friends everywhere you go. You never know where these friendships might take your career.
2. Get some experience, then leverage that experience in order to gain more.
Almost every career starts at the entry level, or the ground floor. At this level, employees are usually handed low-stakes tasks with low responsibility. But they're also placed in the middle of a workplace where they can absorb information about the industry and observe those who are operating a few steps ahead of them. So set your sights on the entry level, and if you land an opportunity, make the most of it. Since large corporations often require degrees as part of an inflexible hiring policy, direct your attention to smaller organizations that may be local or family owned and more willing to work around this minor limitation.
3. Don't close the door on higher education.
You may not have whatever you need to acquire a four year degree right now (money, time, interest), but that doesn't mean your education is over. Look into shorter and more accessible programs that may include a two year associate's degree in anything from healthcare support to criminal justice. Consider a trade and enroll in a vocational program to become a technician. (Electrical, plumbing, automotive and aeronautical experts are always in demand. So are estheticians and health and beauty professionals). These programs are less expensive than you might imagine, and they can lead to salaries and benefits that might surprise you.
4. Read, write, and speak better than you currently do.
No matter how well you already do these three things, keep working on them, and keep steadily improving your mastery of the language. It may not sound fair, but people who can speak in a clear and elevated register on a wide variety of topics are perceived to be more intelligent and more ambitious than those who don't. If your voice, your body language and your written messages convey a sharp curious mind and an interest in the subject at hand, the presence or absence of a college degree won't matter as much to those who stand in a position to help you.
For more on how to get ahead based on what you know, who you know, and where you'd like to go (not on your degree status), explore the job search resources at MyPerfectResume.