What to Expect in this Job Market: Best Degree or Training for Today's Work Force...(Revised)

When I first wrote this article (actually the one I have revised), I was at a different place. When I discovered some people were reading it, I went back to look at it. I return to my articles from time to time. I always find typos. It seems they are never done. This time. I found double passages and I wanted to scream, "Who wrote this!" Please, allow me to beg your forgiveness and offer this instead. This article says more of what I really wanted to say. I have no excuse. Maybe I was tired, pushed the wrong button before publishing--I don't know. Some of it is the same, but there should be a different feel, so please read on as I try again. This question is valid.

Is it even about degrees, training, experience, etc?

It’s unfortunate, but when you need a job these days you need both the education certificate and the experience just to get in the door. It’s frustrating seeing others without your work experience, walk in and take the job for which you may even be more qualified.

Today, of course, many newly graduated students are going back to the same old jobs because they can't find a job they just trained for or spent a fortune on education. Not only that, but many more are constantly changing majors hoping to hit the one that'll nail a good paying job by the time they graduate. I can remember when the computer programmers were going to make the big bucks, before that it was the MBAs, and I think before that it was miniaturizing electronics--making your radio and TV more portable. Now, look at your smart phone, tablet, game platforms, graphics design is the new "plastic" from Mrs. Robinson's day. (The film, The Graduate, in case you missed the reference.)

In some cases, to go beyond a certain level in your job you have to have a degree. I have a super smart sister who made straight “A”s and could have named her ticket to any major university. She chose instead to work. She enjoyed her work, but she became stuck at one level and watched several people who were not nearly as smart or as good at their jobs as she was get promoted because she didn't have a degree. At the time she began working, the degree hadn't seemed important--not eve to the employer. For some people, it just doesn't fit in their plans for a variety of reasons, including financial.

It’s not a perfect system. I have degrees that by themselves are rather worthless, but combine them with practical experience and use the knowledge (not in a book way) but in a way that makes sense, and you suddenly seem very qualified, but you don’t fit the mold exactly. For example, I have an interdisciplinary dual Masters in English/Speech and Dramatic Arts (emphasis in Performance Criticism) and a Masters in Social Psychology. Does that make a trainer? It can.

After spending 30 plus years in the military and government service, I trained in the corporate world and coached corporate speakers. Today, I teach and write. Not an architect, an engineer, an MBA? The degree doesn't match the job. Another example: colleges and universities love PhDs and would rather have one over a Masters degree–even if the Masters degree had tons of experience. Colleges and universities are competing for credibility and the more PhDs, the more respect. Logical. Not at all. Well, it is to who's doing the hiring.

So, what's the difference? An education is more than specific training for a job or it wouldn't be called education. But education is general and has to be applied. What it does show is the ability to start something and see it through to the end. Certification is a little different since it is more a validation of specific knowledge. I wanted to get at why this debate happens; however with the hiring process, there's more going on than choosing the most qualified applicant.

Let's talk. We don’t realize, especially when it affects us personally, just how many people out there are looking for work. For employers, it means they can pick from a great many qualified people and eliminate for reasons other than qualifications unless they are U.S. state or federal government. In those cases, it's fairly easy to get around those restrictions or must hire cases by changing being very specific on the job description or on what pool you are allowing to apply. That way, the government employer gets exactly who they want to appear high enough on the list to hire. It’s hardly a perfect system no matter how many rules or laws you attach to it.

Some people are very qualified in either experience or education, or both. If employers wants someone younger, they go with education. If they want maturity, they look for the experienced person. With both–an applicant can win. If it's all about qualifications, but it usually isn't just... You know that, right? At least sometimes. All right. Most times. Companies in today's economy can pick from thousands of applicants. I think when we are looking for a job personally we do think in terms of education and experience. Some of us may go as far to get some training in interviewing and resume creation. We don’t realize, especially when it affects us personally, just how many people are out there are looking for work, and with that situation how man people are in the employee search assistance business. Some us think we are very qualified either in experience or education. With both–we win. At least sometimes--we think... Not so fast.

Remember college? Choosing an average to above average students who can play a sport to play well makes fiscal sense to someone. It increases the university or colleges status and provides income; some of that income does go for education. Fact. The student may have gone on to make millions or at least earned a college degree he or she might not have without the scholarship. Balanced? I don't know. Choosing a friend or relative for work who can’t play so well with others doesn't make sense to anyone but those who are a part of the relationship. As stupid as it sounds, the college made a better choice all around. It may be a matter of perspective; however, the other decision is made in business every day.

We can’t help it that our years of experience may automatically tell someone how old we are. Employers aren't supposed to discriminate at all (and this would be age discrimination), but it is all about getting the employee they want–not necessarily the best qualified. You don’t have to be a different race to be discriminated against. How about not getting it because you didn't go to a particular school or because you were a blond, or short, or fat? That happens, too. As simple as a state, preferring to hire lawyers who attended a particular law school in their state. It's much easier to be hired in the state where you received your degree(s).

Also, there have been studies. Tall, fit, youthful, attractive men are more likely to get most jobs. There are some exceptions that an attractive women is key--especially those that want to limit the glass ceiling to men.

Yes, women are still paid less and the glass ceiling still exists even though more women are getting degrees than men. 60/40. Nevertheless, the more general fact remains that attractive people, especially women, are most likely to get some jobs, usually those interfacing with men. Charming people sometimes get the job if the company values charm, but mostly its handsome or pretty--unless dumpy is in. It rarely is--unless employees are not seen. Image plays a part, like it or not. And when people need to eliminate people from the pool, anything is game unofficially.

Despite education and experience, getting the interview is important, and there is at least one factor that you, the applicant, has some measure of control.

You can control your attitude, which does makes a difference. I don’t care how good you are at your job, a bad attitude will make a company want to sacrifice your experience and know-how to train someone who’s enthusiastic about the company and wants to learn the the "company" way not t0 have to deal with a potential "attitude" issue. It's most likely an American phenomenon in terms of race, but, other countries have their own cultural biases. Whatever the potential bias--even if you feel it on the company end--if it's going to be a problem for you, ignore the feeling, or excuse yourself from the interview. To get the get the job may take the art of diplomacy. That's where charm and professionalism comes in as well as sensibility.

The basic question now of education versus experience. It depends on the job. On the person. On the situation. On so many factors that it is ridiculous so we can’t really argue which is better. Fitting in is is better. Every situation, every job, and everyone has their reasons for not hiring. We can’t assume that it is a lack of the proper education or experience that disqualified us from the job. Regardless of what they say, it may be something else that they can't say publicly. Maybe they just didn't like us; there was no chemistry. It’s all about fitting in. We all want to fit in, but we don’t always. Personally I’d rather have that job where I fit in and the hiring folks agree.

I have degrees that by themselves are rather worthless (unless I had focused on one or the other for 30 years), however, combine them with practical experience and use the knowledge (not in a book way) but in a way that makes sense. And you suddenly seem very qualified, but you don’t fit the mold exactly. Not an architect, an engineer, an MBA. The degree doesn’t match the job. Another example, colleges and universities love PhDs and would rather have one over a Masters degree–even if the Masters degree had tons of experience. Colleges and universities are competing for credibility and the more PhDs, the more respect. Logical. Not at all. Well, to the universities. It's a move not anymore logical than choosing kids who can play a sport well to attend a major university making money for the university and providing a free college education makes sense, or employing friends or friend's relatives in jobs they aren't as qualified for as other candidates.

The years of experience we can’t help, but automatically tells someone how old we are; they aren't supposed to discriminate at all (and this would be age discrimination), but it is all about getting the employee they want–not necessarily the best qualified. You don’t have to be a different race to be discriminated against. How about not getting it because you didn’t go to a particular school or because you were a blond, or short, or fat. Or not handsome or pretty.

However, getting the interview is important, but attitude makes a difference, too. I don’t care how good you are at your job, a bad attitude will make someone want to sacrifice your experience and know how to train someone who’s enthusiastic and wants to do it the way they want them to do it. If you've passed all the other hurdles.

Today, being able to listen well and communicate are the most important abilities to demonstrate besides a friendly, non-antagonistic attitude. Employers don't owe you anything. Not at this point anyway. Best advice. Bullying your way in won't make you or your employer happy.

Well, that's all for me. I hope this blog was a little different. I do try to be different and I hope that sometimes I make sense.

For more resources about training, see the Training library.

A final reminder: I do have a website where you can find other items I have written, including coupons to get my best selling, The Cave Man Guide To Training and Development and my novel about the near future, Harry's Reality for free! Happy Training.

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