How to Get a Job Without a Degree

Oct. 22, 2010 - Long Beach, California, U.S - A job searcher uses the Calfornia Employment Development Department website. Calif

With the latest recession, a new trend has developed. Companies increasingly ask for degrees or advanced degrees in job applications. It's not because degrees are always needed, but because there are so many people with these qualifications that companies can use the criteria to wean candidates in the first screen. This screening is particularly hard on three types of job candidates:

  • Laid off Boomers who rose through the ranks without degrees

  • Younger candidates from more rural environments who have only associate degrees

  • Employed Boomers wanting a new job but who no longer qualify for the jobs they currently have much less new positions

For many Millennials the recession resulted in longer education stints as parents encouraged them to stay in school since there were no jobs to be had. Now, many are entering the work force with higher debt, but advanced degrees. Is it Game Over for Boomers? No. Experience still counts for something, just not everything.

When applying for new jobs, here are questions to ask yourself:

  • What knowledge is needed that an advanced degree was desired?

  • Can you demonstrate that knowledge in a different way?

  • Even if you have an advanced degree, is it too dated?

  • What other qualifications might gain attention?

  • How can you get those qualifications or certifications?

Listed requirements in many job postings state: "Degree Preferred or a Plus." Don't be deterred. Just because it's desired, doesn't mean they'll get it. Your job is to position yourself as relevant so the lack of a degree is not the deal breaker. One method is continued course work or certifications particularly when you are unemployed. Consider these benefits:

  • Keeping your mind busy

  • Meeting teachers and professionals active in your field.

  • Showing recruiters that you're a life-longer learner and still in the game

  • Gaining credentials you didn't previously have

In today's digital world, some certifications and courses are free while others cost. Some can be done from home, and some require physical class time. Regardless of the certification you seek in your chosen field, the investment is worth your time and effort on many levels.

Employers admire and seek talent who demonstrate a growth mentality – those likely to foster company growth rather than wait to be trained. For Boomers, this means being a candidate dedicated to continued learning/growth opportunities.

Major universities and many organizations now offer MOOCs – Massive Online Course Work. Other groups such as offer trainings with endorsements that can be uploaded to LinkedIn upon course completion. Associations frequently offer industry-specific certifications such as the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation from the American Society of Association Executives.

Certifications vary and some are easier to obtain than others, but don't get hung up on the word "certification," either. Just taking a course and listing it on your resume, or using a course to list "X credits towards Y qualification," lets a recruiter know that you are growth oriented and not just sitting home licking your wounds.

The trick is to start learning something new of any sort that can give your resume a leg up in the job pool. Keep in mind that in applying for a job you're asking an employer to invest in you. A salary is no longer just payment for work provided. It's money invested in hoping you make a difference in the company's growth. The best way to send an alert that you're worth the investment is to show that you believe in yourself enough that you also have invested in yourself. That's the true value of a degree or any course completion certificate.