Degrees of Difficulty: Why Higher Education Might Not Be As Essential As You Think


Here at Mightify we are very familiar with that self-limiting belief “but I don’t have a degree”. So we are always interested in debates like the one that has been kicking around recently – especially as we are ourselves split 50:50 between haves and have nots when it comes to degrees.

The current discussion actually started off by asking whether Britain’s poor productivity could be improved by producing more graduates – or is it already the opposite, given there are more graduates now than ever before?

But it was some of the other stuff that came out that really caught my attention. According to employers, 40% of people with degrees studied the wrong subjects for the work they are being employed for - so-called “qualification mismatch”. Added to which, while on paper many graduates are theoretically overqualified for the jobs they apply for, employers continue to be frustrated at the lack of basic skills available in the workforce including literacy and life skills. So why ask for a degree at all then, I hear you ask?

Well, many employers apparently specify a degree as part of their requirements because they hope (in vain if the above is true) it will bring them into contact with more of the people who have the basic skills they are looking for, not because they want high level learning in a particular subject. They are searching for people with “pre-existing traits”. Which is why, I guess, very few job adverts ask for a degree in a particular subject or discipline.

All of this is good news if you are looking to move careers but holding yourself back because either you think you should have a degree or you see job adverts specifying a degree (or both). If you have been in the emergency services a while, I will guarantee that not only will you have many of those “pre-existing traits” but you will have developed them to a high level. You are what many employers are trying to find by specifying a degree – they just don’t know it!

So next time you see such an advert, don’t exclude yourself if the rest of the package appeals to you. Be prepared to enquire, to challenge and to evidence how the set of skills that you have more than meets the underlying test that employers think they are imposing by asking for a degree qualification. You will be surprised how receptive they can be and if the odd one isn’t, don’t be deterred and ask yourself whether that is the sort of inflexible and narrow organisation you want to work in anyway!

It goes without saying that this isn’t always easy and you may want some help in how to go about it. If you do, get in touch with us at Mightify. With everything from cv writing and opportunity reviews through to personal coaching and interview preparation in our armoury, we have the experience, skills and passion to help you unlock your potential.

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