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Is it better to have Experience or a Degree?



In workplaces today we are seeing an unusual dilemma. Companies complain that they “just can’t find enough good people” and workers cry out that they can’t find the right job and place to work.


So, what is the real challenge here? Is it structural? Is it the process? Or is it purely a mismatch of expectations?


Recruiters are regularly faced with a long list of applicants where no single applicant perfectly matches the job description for the role they are recruiting for.


If you are a job seeker out there looking for a role, you are also faced with a sea of opportunities where you do not perfectly match any of the roles.


The world has become a competitive place, and that competition stems from the demand for skilled workers.


In most cases, employers expect their employees to have at least a bachelor’s degree, but they will hire anyone with relevant experience. Employers have also discovered that some of the most talented people have little to no schooling at all.


It's a difficult situation to be in, but there are ways to maximize your opportunities and skillset to succeed in life.


College is much easier to obtain than a profession. Students who want to pursue a career must work hard to acquire the necessary skills. On the other hand, those who just want to learn can simply enroll in college and start off on equal footing with those pursuing a degree. Both can succeed in the end if they put in the effort, but someone new to the workforce will find it much harder without any experience.


Anyone can learn anything if they put their mind to it. That goes for work experience as well as college courses. Taking on a part-time job while in university or high school will help you learn as you go. Plus, having a job helps you manage your finances and keeps you grounded while studying. Some people call this "earning while learning", and it's an excellent way to supplement your studies with real-world experience that boosts your grade point average.

Your resume is the tool that employers use to determine who gets hired for jobs; it's very powerful when evaluating new candidates. Experience is much more useful than a degree in most cases. A college graduate may only have several years' worth of experience compared to someone with significant experience in the workplace. Even if they're lower on the career ladder, college grads can often land higher-paying positions than those with only a resume full of part-time jobs.


No one can say what path is best when considering their future goals and abilities. However, it's clear that having both an education and experience opens doors much quicker than tailoring one's plans solely around experience or education. Ultimately, it comes down to dedication and willingness- both of which are easy to acquire if you're willing to put in the work.


Many organisations have now switched up their focus to realise that employing for attitude and aptitude is more effective than looking for the perfect candidate with the right qualifications and experience.


Employers are looking for someone that will be a good fit for the culture they are trying to create and someone that will be a quick learner.


The challenge here for the candidate is how you express your attitude and aptitude in your CV and application. If you do not stand out you will not even get passed the first filtering by the recruiter. It is hard to impress at an interview if you do not even get invited to the interview.


I encourage you to rethink your approach to the market. Look at balancing your CV with education, experience, and attitude. Look at shorter programs where you can demonstrate learning. Look at work you can do (sometimes volunteer work) that will build your experience. Look at writing your cover letter that makes it clear that you have a growth mindset.


Someone with a fixed mindset will generally only focus on things that they already know how to do and will have little confidence to step out of their comfort zone to learn new skills. Someone with a growth mindset will see everything as a new and exciting challenge. They will look at a new task and back themselves so that they can learn how to do it.


Employers are now realising that a growth mindset is critical to their future. The world is changing at an unprecedented pace. It is becoming less important to consider what you are capable of doing today and more important to consider your capacity to learn, grow and adapt.


The call to action here is for both recruiters and applicants to rethink their approach to the market. To embrace the concept of ensuring a base level of competence and experience whilst putting a higher emphasis on attitude, growth, and adaptability.


Where do you see the world of recruitment heading? How do you approach these situations of mismatched role descriptions to applicants?


We would love to hear your thoughts.


Contribute to The Leadership Project Newsletter

If you have an articulate that challenges our thinking on leadership that you would like to contribute to The Leadership Project newsletter, please do not hesitate to reach out to Mick Spiers at mick@mickspiers.com or Rica Vidanes at eirene.vidanes@mickspiers.com.

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