Your Diploma Guarantees You Nothing

This post was written by Derek.

Are you taking college classes currently? Or, do you know someone that is? If you are a young college student and are excited about the opportunities that await you after you receive your college diploma, you may want to read this post very carefully.

College is a great thing, but it isn’t what it used to be. If you backtrack 30 or 40 years, you’ll find that the majority of students did not complete their college degree. So, naturally, jobs were readily available to those brainiacs that did! If you had your college diploma in the 70s and 80s, you were already on the fast track and in high-demand from employers in your area.

Today, it’s a different story. Everyone is going to college, and most students are earning their Bachelor’s Degrees. Since it’s such a common occurrence, it really doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be on the fast-track anywhere. You might have your diploma, but you may still have to work at McDonalds for a while longer… if you’re not prepared.

Get Active and Build Your Resume

When I was in college, I was pretty arrogant. I caught on to most topics very quickly and scored well on tests without much effort. I had a mindset that I could just cruise through school, grab that diploma, and enter into my field of choice. After all, I was sharp and most employers should be able to recognize my talents, right?

I graduated from college in 2008 with a degree in Finance. Do you remember 2008? Banks were closing and businesses were struggling (some still are). The opportunity for college grads was at an all-time low. My resume was decent, but only because I had a high GPA; the “Experience” portion was basically blank. Looking back, it probably would have been a good idea to be involved in some extracurricular activities related to my major.

Make sure your “Experience” section is not blank on your resume! Join clubs that pertain to your major and start building relationships with companies in your area! Some schools don’t offer a summer internship program; if this is true, create your own! If you have to, offer them your services for no pay! I know it sounds radical, but experience is what every company out there is looking for. If you have a full “Experience” section on your resume when you graduate, you’ll be receiving far more offers than your video-game playing friend.

Don’t Get Tons of Schooling with no Experience

Here is the recent trend: students are ready to graduate and earn their Bachelors Degree, but since the economy still looks questionable, they decide that they’ll stay in school until it comes back around. Currently, there’s a flood of Master’s grads with no experience, and guess what, no employers want them!

My cousin went this route. She received her Master’s Degree in Finance in May, 2010. Since she had very little experience outside of her schooling (most employers look for at least 3 years of experience), she wasn’t able to find a job until nearly a year later! It really doesn’t matter how much time you spent in school, heed the advice from earlier in this post and dig around for some experience!

Don’t Be Afraid to Move

When I graduated from college, I lived in Michigan and had very little opportunity for employment (at the time, I think unemployment in our state was above 16%). My friend found work in Boynton Beach, Florida and asked me if I’d go with him – I could search for jobs once I was there. I took him up on the offer and was able to find an entry-level job within a Global Headquarters in the area. If I had not made the decision to move, I wouldn’t have found such a great job, and would still have very little experience.

Now, I wouldn’t suggest moving like I did, with no job lined up, but if there’s a company out of state that shows an interest in you, don’t be afraid to go for it! You don’t have to live there forever. Just work there long enough to get some experience under your belt.

I always had it in the back of my mind that I would move back to my hometown after a few years. With my corporate experience, it was really a piece of cake! I found a great job inside of 2 months, and I now live near my family once again.

Just Remember….

College degrees are important, but without experience, they are just worthless pieces of paper. If you haven’t already, make an effort to do some work in your field. You won’t regret it!


Your Diploma Guarantees You Nothing — 15 Comments

  1. This is very true indeed. I had a very simar experience in 2003 when I first graduated looking for work in the software industry and the effects of the dotcom bust were in full force!

  2. I’m headed to an MBA program, not undergrad, this fall, but I’m certainly not banking on any outcomes. It’s why I’d like to avoid student loans. I also delayed applying until I felt that I was in the right place in my career so I’d have something to build from (and so experience wouldn’t be thin).

    As for undergrad, internship, internship, internship! or at least research! Employers respect real-world experience more than just about anything else. Most colleges will have a career services office that can help hook you up with companies looking for help.

    • I couldn’t have said it better myself! Those internships really are important – for those that are still in school please do everything you can to get some experience before graduating! Work for free somewhere if you have to!

  3. I always felt it is what you do with your education that matters. One of my former bosses was an English major in school. He went into marketing and eventually became president of a bicycle company. I knew a software development manager whose degree was in physical education. Success does not care what your degree is in or even if you have a degree.

    • I think so many students are only focused on getting that piece of paper, rather than actually learning and growing in their desired field. If they actually have the interest in doing well after school, then they will naturally go out and gain experience in the real world. If not, then they’re going to be looking for a job for a long time!

      Once you get a degree and gain some experience (in any area really), then life becomes easier.

  4. Derek, thanks for sharing your experiences. It’s all true. So many people are trying to get internships now that there are not enough to go around in some areas. Another option for undergraduates is to sign up for the work-study program at your university. They guarantee you will have one internship every calendar year because that’s the way the program is organized. You can take the internship in the summer or sometimes you have to take it during the academic year. However it happens, it is a good deal. You will earn a salary during your internship because the company is required to pay you. Usually it covers your living expenses with some extra cash too. In many cases it does not cause you to graduate later than you would have if you were not in the program. All you need to do is sign up for the program, no matter what year you are in college.

    All 4 of our kids did this & it really helped them find jobs when they graduated. Thanks for a good post that can help a lot of people!

    • Thanks for the great comment Maggie! The workstudy program is a great idea too! Any experience that is somewhat related to your degree is an excellent idea! It will pay large dividends in the future. 🙂

  5. Agree with Krantcents. I’ve run across a number of persons that are doing nothing remotely similar to what they went to college for (myself included). If anything, the experience working in home improvement and construction during my college years helped me with my first job after graduation. A BS in business and I wind up being an estimator with a construction company. Go figure.

    • @Robert. I know people like that too. It’s like they have too much book knowledge and not enough experience knowledge. I feel really bad for them since they invested so many years of their life getting those degrees.

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