Yes, Education Still Matters

The workforce is a chaotic place today. You’ve got some sectors hiring and others laying off. You’ve got celebrities and high-ranking government officials saying that what we need is people with skills, not necessarily a bachelor’s degree, but you’ve also got university presidents and education advocates saying there’s no substitute for higher education.

It can be really overwhelming if you’re hitting the job market. What you need is some certainties, some consistency in the message of just what on earth you are supposed to do to get a good job that can provide the life that you want.

Let me throw you some truth here about exactly what will get you hired in this job market.

In just a couple minutes of internet searching, you can probably find 200 positions that you can apply for. You just keep on clicking and you’ll keep on applying. It feels like a worker’s market, and to a great extent, it is.

But the only way to really understand what’s going on and what you should do is to see this market from the back side. With so many job listing services out there, it’s incredibly easy to post positions far and wide, with little expense and effort. That makes it an employer’s market because they get the pick of the litter—a litter that’s bigger than it’s ever been.

So on that back side, the side where the HR personnel are working, is the avalanche created by hundreds and thousands of people just like you, clicking like crazy on listings. The positions that once got dozens of applicants now get hundreds, and there may be fewer people than ever working to sort through those names.

Check that: Those numbers. You’re a number, and your only hope is to set yourself apart from the hundreds of other numbers. Whatever you see on the evening news about people who work hard and think big being the best workers, the fact is that education still matters. Your masters in fashion merchandising will take you much further than the next applicant’s panache and overloaded walk-in closet. It’s that simple.

One of the tools they use for that is education, and while we can all cite instances where best-educated didn’t turn out to be best-qualified, there often isn’t time to do anything differently.

This step is often automated. The results are sorted based on educational attainment, and if you didn’t make the cut, there’s no chance to fight your way back to relevance. You’re in the recycle bin.

The best way out of there is to ignore the naysayers and get an education. If you’ve got the diploma, you’ve got the momentum. And if you don’t have it, you’ll be in good company if you go back to school.

Barring that, you need to prioritize. You’re already skipping the openings that require a degree, but you need to think also about how much time you spend applying for positions that don’t officially require one. Here’s a hint: If it’s suggested but not required that you have a bachelor’s or master’s, you should probably assume that it actually is. Remember that software that leaves you out, or at least that scores you lower. Focus on those who can tell you up front that you qualify.

Here’s another point. Tokenism is dead. Nobody is worried about meeting parity of gender, race, or anything else, because the good old avalanche is massive and, unlike a real avalanche, is not just one color. It’s easy to get a diverse group of applicants. Assuming you’ll get mileage from your demographics is a recipe for failure because you’ll be out before anybody even knows your profile.

Getting a job is a major undertaking. You can’t expect to position yourself for a 20- or 30-year run with a two-week search. Know what you’re qualified for, what will help you–and what won’t.

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