Success without a degree by Matt Gubba
Why real life learning could give you a competitive edge later in your career.
When weighing up your options on whether or not going to university is the right choice for you, part of that decision will no doubt be based on how you believe it will affect your career later in life.
You may be thinking that going to university would automatically give you an edge over someone who doesn’t, but in reality this is simply not the case. While going to university can be very helpful, or even essential in cases where a specific degree is a prerequisite to that career path (such as medicine), in the world of business, the head start you gain by opting not to go can actually be a big advantage.
According to the Office for National Statistics, only half of the people who go to university go on to work in a field related to their degree after they graduate. Surely this begs the question: Why spend 3 or more years studying and incurring large debts to get a degree unless you’re sure that you’re going to use it?
My experience has shown me that in the world of business, real life learning wins out over academics. Below are some of my tips on how you can beat the competition without a degree.
Use your head start wisely
One of the advantages of going straight into the working world after you finish school, is that you have the potential to build up a huge head start. By the time your friends have finished their degree course, you will have years of practical experience under your belt which you can use to your advantage.
Experience is usually the only thing that will allow you to progress into more senior positions. It doesn’t matter how qualified you are academically; without job experience you will pretty much always be starting at the bottom.
So as a school leaver, if you work hard and learn lots in the beginning, you have the potential to move up the ladder before your friends have even started their first job. I’ve personally witnessed numerous situations where graduates end up reporting to people of a similar age who don’t have a degree simply because they have more experience.
It’s important that you capitalise on this, and use your head start to your full advantage. Spend your time learning as much as you possibly can about your job, constantly push for more responsibility, and always go the extra mile. If you do, you will come out on top.
Practical experience beats generic qualifications
One of the biggest problems with relying on going to university and doing a generic degree is that it most business based jobs don’t really require one. While having a degree to list on your CV may make it slightly easier to open that first door at some companies, you really have to ask yourself whether that stacks up against three years of your time plus tens of thousands of pounds in cost.
Once you’ve landed that first job and stuck it out for a while, the work experience on your CV will supersede any education listed on there. I can tell you from personal experience of both applying for jobs and having been a manager recruiting people myself, that for anything above the most entry level positions, your experience is what makes you attractive.
Make sure that you gain as much variety of experience as you can in your role, and never be afraid to ask for additional work if you have spare time. The more you learn practically, the faster you will progress in your career.
Never get complacent
Once you have a job, one of the biggest factors that determines how far, and how fast you progress is how you are perceived by those more senior. You need to be seen as being good at your job, hardworking, and keen to go the extra mile.
One of the big weaknesses I often see in graduates is that many are complacent when starting out, relying too heavily on the fact they have a degree to carry them forward. When I was younger I had a job in finance, and I wiped the floor with a stream of older and more academically qualified colleagues because I was constantly making sure that I knew the business inside out, and continually pushed myself forward.
You need to remember that promotions and pay increases aren’t just handed out as gifts. You need to be ready to fight for them and force yourself forward every step of the way.
Make sure that you Network
Something I always tell people regardless of what they do for a living, is that networking is one of the most important things you can do when it comes to progressing in any field. Most top jobs are found via networking, not via traditional recruitment channels. So make sure you are doing it.
You can start by doing things as simple as using social media to seek out and engage with influential people in your company or industry. Simply making these people aware that you exist is a great first step. Most people will be flattered if you get in touch and ask for a little advice or try to engage with them.
Remember that little and often is the key with networking well. It takes time and consistency to build up good relationships.
Remember that success is all about you
At the end of the day, success comes down to you as a person; not the letters that you do or don’t have after your name. If you believe in your own ability and you conduct yourself in the ways that I’ve outlined above, there are no limits on how far you can go in life.
Having the ability to persevere and keep on going through tough times is what ultimately will separate you from the rest. Your level of success is in your hands.
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