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Why Simply Getting a Degree Isn't Enough




Entitlement gets you nowhere


In my role as a coach and tutor I have worked with many graduates who simply cannot get a job. And, I’m sad to say, many of those had the attitude that because they had spent X number of years studying and X amount of money on their student loan, they were entitled to walk into a well-paid job. I have rarely seen this sense of entitlement in non-graduates.


While I view employment as a basic human right – to be able to provide for yourself – the majority of us cannot simply walk into a well-paid job, graduate or otherwise. As the old adage goes ‘You have to learn to crawl before you can walk’.

Quite frankly, I am a tad unsympathetic to this high-minded attitude which is possibly one of the root causes of an inability to secure work. Yes, you have a 2:2 in Civil Engineering or whatever but I have seen 15 other candidates with a 2:1. What work skills do you have? Why I should employ you instead of the other candidates? What qualities can you bring?


The E Factor


Soft skills, social skills and employability skills are of high value to all employers. What use are you if you can’t get to work on time or get along well with your colleagues? How long will you last if you have an overbearing, arrogant attitude that rubs people up the wrong way? How far will you get if you have a negative attitude, poor team skills or lack the courage to communicate good ideas or use your initiative?


Your degree is not what makes you employable. If you have a 2:2 and all the other candidates have a 2:1, you can still get the job if you can outperform the others in the Employability Factor.


Of course, most graduates DO have the Employability Factor. It isn’t them I am talking about. It’s the ones who repeatedly don’t make it to the interview or, more commonly, never make it past the interview. If that is you, then something isn’t working and you need to figure out what it is.


The Three Cs


As a tutor I sometimes show a video about interviews to my groups. The video is awfully cheesy but highlights some important points. Not least the 3 Cs - Competence, Commitment and Compatibility. As a graduate you might be able to demonstrate the first C but what about the other two?

Just for clarity let’s go over them:


Competence: Do you have the hard skills to do the job already or can you demonstrate your potential to become competent with some training?


Commitment: Are you really interested in the job and will you give it all you’ve got?


Compatibility: Do you align with the company values, ethos and culture? Will you seamlessly fit into the team?


Welcome to the real world


Employers hire on instinct when everything else is equal. If they don’t like you, you won’t get the job and if they do, you will, even when other candidates present as more qualified on paper. As far as I am aware, you can’t get a degree in Compatibility or Commitment. Likewise, with work skills. In every single job you will need to deal with other people, even if you are self-employed. In every job, even if you work alone or at home, somewhere, you are part of the team. In every single job, even when you are the CEO, you will have someone to answer to.


Start on Level 1 like any game


Graduates need to keep this in mind when they are looking for work or invited to interviews. Get a job, any job, that will prove to employers that you know how to function and succeed in a real work setting. Work on your Employability Factor by understanding the behaviours and attitudes that make you an attractive candidate. Be honest with yourself. No Astronaut was born with the right stuff to propel them beyond the stratosphere. You can still keep your eye out for the job of your dreams and go for it. It’s not rocket science.

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