Future Insight Newsletter

No Degree? No Problem! Here's How to Land an Excellent Job Anyway

In the USA there will be more than 50.6 million jobs this decade. Only 27.1 percent will require a college degree.

By Miriam Salpeter July 16, 2014

There are many factors affecting how difficult it may be to land a new job. Prime among them is how well you negotiate the job-search terrain. Do you target your résumé specifically for each position, keeping in mind keywords that appeal to the employer? Are you following directions completely and correctly for each application? Have you selected positions appropriate to your skills, or are you applying for jobs you're over- or underqualified to do?

Another factor in landing a job is your education. According to Pew Research Center, millennial college graduates who are between ages 25 and 32 and working full time earn about $17,500 more annually than those who possess a high school diploma only. Also, 89 percent of college graduates work full time compared to 82 percent of those with just their high school diploma. Only 3.8 percent of college-educated millennials are unemployed, compared with 12.2 percent of young adults with a high school diploma.

However, the cost of college and interest level in pursuing higher education may prevent potential job seekers from pursuing postsecondary degrees. Some research suggests that not everyone should pursue a college degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be 50.6 million job openings by 2022 but only 27.1 percent of those positions will require college degrees.

Even though he does not have a college degree, Lionel Rabb is the CEO of a number of Chicago-based companies, including Catalyst Group Global, Total Support Solutions and Omicron Technologies. He is also founder and trustee of The Rabb Family Foundation. These are his tips for pursuing a successful career without a college education:

Focus on your network. You’ve probably heard that who you know is just as important as what you know. It couldn’t be more true than when it’s time to land a job. Many non-college grads don’t realize they're likely to be weeded out from opportunities requiring a degree when applying online. However, it is possible, in some cases, to land an interview if you’re otherwise well-qualified and have a contact refer you to the hiring manager. Rabb reminds job seekers: “Relationships matter; how you interact with people and build those relationships matter. Meet different people and have divergent dialogues across fields and be sure to stay in touch – especially with those people that seem genuine.”

Accept failure, be flexible. Whether or not you have a college degree, failure is a natural part of your career; there will be ups and downs. According to Rabb, the key to becoming a successful businessperson is to accept failures, but never let them stop you – don’t give up and remain flexible. “Both flexibility and determination are keys to becoming a success at what you do,” he says.

Think quickly, act slowly. You always want to be thinking, but how fast you act upon those thoughts could hamper the desired results or outcome. It’s therefore critical to be strategic – research possible alternatives, options and outcomes. Rabb suggests you incorporate a little strategy and research into your plans to help ensure your quick thinking will bear more fruit. At the same time, “never become complacent, as time and complacency are the enemies to any person's business success,” he says.

Treat business deals like long-term relationships. Don’t think that you need to accomplish everything at once when approaching an opportunity or deal. If you do, “there likely won't be any deal No. 2 or 3," Rabb notes. "Knowing, responding and respecting your business audience’s needs and concerns, and working on building long-term relationships, which are based on trust, will drive more revenue in the end.”

Beat the odds. With or without a college degree, there are no guarantees to being a successful businessperson. It is, therefore, always better to assume the odds are against you; get used to it and work harder than everyone else.

Gain experience and skills. Even if you don’t have a college degree, it’s up to you to acquire the necessary skills and training where you seek to be an expert. Refine your skills in any way you can. Don’t think you always have to be paid to do something – putting skin in the game is a great way to gain new experience and skills and build trust and relationships.

Give no matter what. Don't wait until you think you’ve made it before you help people in need. Giving throughout your life is important – when you are starting up and only have a little, to when you have made it and have a lot.

Miriam Salpeter, owner of Keppie Careers, is often quoted in major media outlets for her job search and social media expertise. Author of three books and a sought-after speaker and coach, she leverages her extensive background and successes to teach job seekers and entrepreneurs how to easily use social media marketing to accomplish their career and business goals. Salpeter also provides strategic advice and support regarding interviewing, résumé writing and personal branding.