Job Seeker Blog - Spark Hire

I Have A Degree. What’s the Problem?

What’s less than nothing? Your shiny diploma. The piece of paper you struggled for years to get, paid so many thousands of dollars to earn and consumed countless cups of coffee to get through is in all reality worth nothing…in the short term that is. Keep reading and I promise you this is going somewhere.

Right off the bat you are going to take your fancy degree and apply for jobs. The issue that a large number of college students and graduates are running into now is that everybody with a college degree is doing the exact same thing. Right now, a college degree is standard for an increasing number of jobs. College degrees are becoming the norm, so instead of being exceptional with a diploma, you are now the standard. To stand out you need certificates and master’s degrees, which have now taken the place of your standard college BA/BS.

I remember having this debate in college, that not more than a few decades ago a college degree was a huge status symbol. It meant you were trained and educated and having one almost guaranteed you a position. The reason was that the number of people with a college degree was substantially lower than it is today. Those who had one were thought to be trained to handle a great deal more of responsibility and possessed a great set of skills. Now to be considered normal, you need a college degree or a technical school equivalent to even be counted as an applicant for the most menial jobs. The college degree now is the equivalent of a high school diploma, and a master’s degree is closer to what a regular college degree was a mere decade or so ago.

The reason being- a large number of positions being cut right now are middle management, people with several years experience and education. Right now they are being pushed down the ladder and competing for lesser jobs than they are actually qualified for. With them being forced to take those jobs, it creates a domino effect by pushing everyone else down the ladder as well. Which is why college students and graduates are competing not only against each other, but against other highly qualified candidates. The ace card right now is experience and not necessarily education. Except now the paradox that would even make the doctor’s head spin is gaining the experience necessary for these jobs, but in order to do so you need experience. In essence you are trying to gain the experience without the prior necessary experience. So unless you have a TARDIS at your disposal, college students and graduates are in quite a pickle right now.

Before I get flamed by parents and the like, I am NOT speaking against college education. I firmly believe in the college system and that a college education can be quite beneficial. Statistics show that people with college degrees in the long run earn more and have greater chances at advancement in their careers. The problem I am addressing in this article is getting one’s foot in the door. If you can get in, then arguably your biggest challenge has been overcome. The college degree may not be what matters anymore, but there is still a plethora of ways for college students to get ahead.

  • Do volunteer work. It shows passion and dedication for a cause that is not your own.
  • Get involved with leadership roles on campus or in your community. Leadership provides a foundation for a set of skills that employers are looking for.
  • Internships- Give yourself some of that necessary experience or at least some general working experience. Internships also give you good practice at applying what you have learned in the classroom to real life.
  • Network- Start meeting and connecting with people who can be an asset to you later on. It never hurts to have an inside man/woman in a particular industry. College students are exposed to tons of ways to network. You would be a fool for not taking advantage of at least one.
  • Join the military- Officer training schools especially are great sources of leadership and skill training. Not only are you providing yourself with a chance at increasing your skills, you are serving a cause much greater than yourself. The other plus side is that the military will help pay for your college education.
  • Sign up for Spark Hire- This is more than just a shameless plug, so hear me out. Create and submit a Profile Video to employers so your application can be judged by more than just a resume. Let’s face it, on paper the vast majority of college students are going to be beat out by candidates with more qualifications. Use the Profile Video to get ahead of these candidates by expressing a personality and character. Qualifications are only part of the picture. If the person does not fit with the company on a personality level, then that person is not going to last long. Get noticed by being more than just a piece of paper. The other advantage is that as a member of GenY, we are more accustomed to using technology over our GenX competitors. Grab the technology while it is still relatively unknown to them and gain a huge competitive edge. Thanks for hearing me out, now back to your regularly scheduled blog post.

You don’t have to agree with me. Your experience might be different. I’m just merely observing a growing pattern in today’s job market. Maybe when the economy picks up a little more, things will change and college students do not have to compete against former middle managers for introductory level positions. But until then, college students have to take advantage of every opportunity they can to make sure they are more than just a diploma.

Questions? Ideas or suggestions? Follow me on twitter @ChrisComella or email me at ccomella@sparkhire.com

IMAGE: Courtesy of Online College Degree

Christopher Comella

Christopher earned his BA in Political Science from DePaul University in 2011, and is no stranger to writing and deadlines. One of his greatest assets is to add humor to even the driest of subjects, which is why half of his professors love him and the other half hated his work.