I hate to burst your hopeful college student bubble. But it’s for your own good.
What bubble, you ask?
You might know it better as the glimmer of hope that hangs like the North Star over your fact-crammed head. The mantra of positivity you chant to yourself when you have three exams in one week and are running on 4 hours of sleep and a case of Monster. The light at the end of the near-eternal procession of coursework.
You rub your bleary eyes and whisper over your Spotify study playlist, “This is all going to pay off when this degree lands me a job.”
I’m sorry, somebody’s gotta tell you. That degree won’t get you anything.
And here’s why.
You aren’t a special snowflake for getting a bachelor’s degree. Over one-third of adults in the United States have one, meaning the job market is flooded with qualified (or overqualified) applicants.
Degrees are still a requirement for most jobs, which makes earning your bachelor's a valuable step in preparing for almost any career. But that degree just doesn’t make your resume jump out at potential employers like it would have 50 years ago.
A bachelor’s degree is not an automatic hall pass into grown-up land.
When you graduate with a degree in, say, accounting, you aren’t going to actually know that much about accounting. You’ll know the basics, and you’ll definitely be ahead of anyone who didn’t suffer through Auditing 101. (If you’re one of these unlucky souls, I am so sorry for what you’ve been through.)
But you’re not going to be an expert in your field of study. You’ll have a good start, but that piece of gold-embossed paper with your name on it says you’re a beginner, not a master.
Your degree tells prospective employers a couple of things. First, that you had enough grit to stick with college, and second, that you know some generic stuff about whatever is on your diploma.
It tells them nothing about what you can do or if you have ever worked a job remotely related to your degree. As national statistics show, almost anyone can get a degree. Not everyone can do a job well.
A degree says you’re good at taking tests and learning required materials. But a degree tells a potential employer nothing about your good judgment.
The philosopher Voltaire wrote, “Common sense is not so common,” and employers understand this sad fact better than anyone else.
A degree can’t guarantee you a job because it can’t guarantee that you actually have basic human wisdom about how to operate in a workplace. You have to figure out how to demonstrate that yourself in a job market full of highly-educated people who were skipped over by the common sense gene (if you know what I mean).
One of the best ways to get hired is by knowing the right people. Why is that?
Because while a bachelor’s degree says you’ve spent untold hours isolated, cramming knowledge into your aching head, it doesn’t tell anyone you’re actually a good person to hire.
People, however, know things like that. A network is basically a personalized group of professional character witnesses—people who know your work ethic and worth to a team. A piece of paper can tell employers what you know, but only another person can tell employers if they want you around.
Soft skills (like communication, a team mindset, and poise) are not necessarily included in your college coursework. Which means earning a degree doesn’t make you a shoo-in for living life well.
A bachelor’s degree is definitely a rite of passage, but it can’t do your taxes for you, make you stick to a budget, give you confidence speaking to strangers, or get you to work on time.
In an interview, potential employers will most likely look for a degree as a baseline qualification, but believe me, they’re much more interested in learning whether or not you’re a capable human. They’ve seen degrees before.
I’m sorry your hard-earned bachelor’s degree isn’t the magical life kickstart potion that you wanted it to be. Though if I may reinflate that bubble just a little...your bachelor’s degree is a start. It lays the groundwork for constructing a stunning resume.
Instead of focusing only on earning a degree or on only gaining work experience, why not do both? This is the sweet spot of career preparation: pursuing your bachelor’s degree alongside real-life skill development.
As you earn your degree, keep in mind all the credentials it can’t magically create and figure out how to get those another way. No university, degree, or work experience has the power to define you or your skill set. But you do. Crafting the ideal education for your life is totally up to you.
I’d say it’s time to get to it.
Want to earn your bachelor’s degree and work experience at the same time? That’s hard to do on a campus. But it’s not so hard through Accelerated Pathways. Accelerated Pathways allows you to take flexible online coursework which is guaranteed to transfer into the university of your choice. Meaning you have the freedom to work a job, volunteer, or earn practical hands-on experience however you please without giving up your college studies.
If Shelbie has a cup of tea, a good book, or a deep conversation, she is a happy camper. With a background in accounting, classical music, and blogging, she believes learning is one of life's greatest adventures.