How to Get Hired Without a College Degree

Bob Rosner
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Posted: Jun 10, 2009 12:01 AM

YOUR RANT: I've got lots of great experience, but my company doesn't hire anyone for a management position without a college degree.

911 REPAIR: I think it's crazy that most companies only hire college graduates and only consider people for management positions who have graduate degrees. That reminds me of a little company based in my hometown, you might have heard of it -- Microsoft. The founders, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, are both college dropouts. Yet, if either of them applied for a management job at Microsoft today, they wouldn't even be considered for the position.

There are things you can do to get around the requirement of a college degree at work. I've listed four strategies below. You've all heard of street "cred" (as in credibility). My four tips will be tied to the word "CRED," but this time it relates to "suite" CRED. For more, check out, "Knock 'em Dead" by Martin Yate (Adams Media, 2007).

-- Clinical Degree. Early in my career I actually listed on my resume that I had a "clinical" degree in marketing, as in "real world" marketing experience. Often I'd even put it under education on my resume. You don't have to run from a lack of a degree, sometimes you just need to position it properly to put your background in the best light.

-- Rule-Breakers. For every job requirement, there are often 10 people who got hired without the required experience. You need to learn the secret to their success. So network to find all the "exceptions" to whatever rule is holding you back. Often they'll be glad to share their secrets.

-- "EducatOr." That is not a typo, I purposely made that a capital "O." You can always go back to college. But if you have a specific area of expertise, for example, say you started your own business. Approach a local business school, or even MBA program, and offer to teach a course in entrepreneurship. Heck, they'll let almost anyone teach a course in business. I've done it four times. Would you rather hire someone who was a professor or a student? Best of all, if this works, you'll get paid to get your experience rather than having to pay them.

-- Degree Alternatives. There are lots of options out there if you decide to get a degree. You can sign up for an online course. You can examine a wide variety of certificate programs, many of which will give you credit for your job experience. There are also weeklong programs offered by Harvard or Stanford that just might look better on your resume than a degree from the Local U. Explore all your alternatives.

Don't get me wrong, I learned a lot in college. How to use a cafeteria tray as a sled and how to drink Jell-O shots immediately leap to mind. But I'm just not sure this education is essential in today's workplace. Let's judge people on what they've done and not just what they've studied.

WORKPLACE911 EXECUTIVE POINTS

Getting Hired Without a Degree:

-- Clinical Degree.

-- Rule-Breakers.

-- "EducatOr."

-- Degree Alternatives.

LIST OF THE WEEK

from Challenger

Companies are changing their recession strategy:

-- HR executives saying their companies had instituted salary cuts/freezes, 52.4 percent; up from 27.2 percent in January

-- Companies cutting staff, 43 percent; percentage making cuts in January, 56 percent

-- Companies needing to cut costs, 86 percent

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK

"Live together as brothers and do business as strangers." -- Arabic proverb