If you currently lack a college degree and are finding your job search a challenge as a result, you are probably not alone. You might also not find that fact particularly comforting! “Misery loves company” is a well-known saying, but its usefulness in your job search is zero. Knowing you are not alone in a sinking boat won’t improve your odds of surviving, much less thriving.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should tell you that I never had the courage when I was looking for a job to try the advice that Ask the Headhunter’s Nick Corcodilos repeatedly gives. I pretty much did things by the conservative book, and he wasn’t writing that one! However, he’s not the only person who advocates something similar, so I think it’s worthwhile to offer the idea for your consideration–if you haven’t already discovered and tried it for yourself.
Basically, Corcodilos maintains that to succeed in your quest for a new and/or better job, you need to give potential employers a strong sense of what you can do that they can essentially take to the bank. In response to a question from a reader of his blog, he said, “The way it normally works, you provide your credentials and they decide whether to talk to you. If your keywords (that is, college degrees) don’t match, they tell you to go pound salt. But there is another way to approach this that can get you past the college requirement. Learn to talk shop before ‘credentials’ dominate the transaction.” In other words, convince them of your unique value to their organization before you submit a resume that clearly doesn’t have a college degree on it.
What does that mean to you? Here’s what Corcodilos says about the fact that employers rely on degrees, which aren’t always a good indicator of performance on the job: “…understanding why they rely on degrees in the selection process should help you address what they really want: Proof you can do the work and proof that you have the sophistication to grow in the job.”
So you can’t quite see yourself being as out-there as Corcodilos advocates. Does that mean you’re doomed? Maybe not. One possible tactic is to get to know someone on the inside of companies you want to work for and develop a trust-based relationship with the individual that will let you do at least a couple of things: (1) Potentially learn about upcoming or existing job opportunities that aren’t public knowledge yet and figure out how you could be a valuable fit for those opportunities. (2) Build up your “referral potential.” That is, increase the number and quality of people who will happily refer you for employment opportunities.
One additional point, based not only on Corcodilos’ advice but also on personal experience: Consider taking a job that’s at a slightly lower level than you’re ultimately aiming for, as long as you can add value and can see potential for future growth. It’s often easier to go higher once you’re on the inside.