Having a Degree VS Experience & Passion

posted by 5 years ago in Features

As it’s A-Level results day, teens of the UK are panicking, running around thinking about what is next for them will it be University or will they go straight into a working role? At the same time 69% of online SMEs are searching the UK for employees however, they are not just looking for graduates and degrees according to eBay’s Employee Skills Index survey!

From a young age our peers tell us that university should be our ultimate goal in terms of education if we want our dream jobs in the end, but with today’s generation, research proves otherwise! Of those surveyed half said that a candidate with a degree from a university is ‘not at all important’ – one in four believe the same when it comes to GCSEs.

So is a degree worth taking into account when recruiting?

No, David George founder of Bikmo has said;

“Through growing the team at Bikmo, I’ve started to hone my technique in choosing the right team members to fit in, and support us achieving the exceptional levels we’ve set ourselves to achieve in the cycling sector.

As much as academic qualifications give an indication of the ability to study in a given field, I know from my own experience that they don’t give any feel for the person, how innovative they are, nor actually how they can apply those skills in a real-world environment. After finishing my engineering degree, it took a couple of years to get to a standard that I would have called acceptable for client work.

When I review CVs for any position, I generally don’t take much notice of academic qualification, but their work experience and what they do in their spare time (probably for us, the biggest factor). The biggest check, however comes in the 3 times we meet them. The first chat gives an indication of their personality and how the function around new people – no egos! The next sessions consist of a minimum of half a day spent with the team, during a normal work day. In addition to the candidate running through some projects / problem solving (all of which are real!), all the team spend time with them and give their opinion.

That’s not to say a qualification isn’t of use – it’s more what you’ve done achieving it, and if you’ve actually spent time applying those skills in a real-world environment.”

Although a degree might not be crucial when it comes to getting a job, it doesn’t mean it is worth avoiding!

Yes, Director of Careers & Employability, Kate Daubney of the University of Chester comments;

“Having a degree can be a real asset, but what is just as important is the student or graduate’s ability to express what the degree experience has actually given them. It’s not just the specialist knowledge, but also the transferable or ‘soft’ skills, and the ability to learn and think for themselves. It’s also really important for a graduate to show self-awareness, to be able to explain why they chose to go to university, why they chose the degree they did, and what they have gained from both the academic and broader university experience. And those same principles are true if you haven’t been to university. If you have made a conscious choice to go straight into work, or you’ve done a lot of volunteering or other extra-curricular activities, employers still want to see that you can think independently, explain choices that you’ve made, and are willing to learn.

“In many sectors, having passion and experience can seem more important than an academic education, but I think it’s as much about what passion and experience represent to an employer. Being passionate, enthusiastic and really interested in a job or sector are qualities that every employer wants in their staff, because that suggests you will be interested in those you are working with – colleagues and clients – and in the work you are doing.  Having experience can really help reinforce that the choice of job or career is the right one for you; it’s much easier to be confident that you are well suited to a particular role if you’ve done it, or something like it, and you know what skills you are going to need to show in the role. Even doing jobs that you really hated can be useful; it helps you focus on what you enjoy and what you are good at, and that leads to good decisions. So anyone can be enthusiastic and gain some work experience, but those are most effective if you can use each of them in a focused way to help you make good decisions and give an employer confidence in you.

“Going to university is a great experience, both as a learning opportunity and for all the other opportunities it brings in terms of personal, social and intellectual development. Many graduates learn a huge amount about themselves in the university environment that they then carry forward into their working lives. For some graduates, the degree is a specific starting point for a future career, and for others it will be a more general transition through more specialised learning and broader skills development. That hasn’t really changed in the last decade. But we know that around 75% of employers don’t specify a particular degree for their graduate applicants; they are looking for a broad spread of qualities and skills. They want curiosity, enthusiasm, commitment, an outward-looking attitude, resilience, and good thinking, communication and delivery skills. And these can be very well developed through working life instead of university. There is such a wide range of options now to make the transition from GCSE to a full-time working life: apprenticeships, degree apprenticeships, school leaver programmes, university, graduate schemes. That is one of the key changes in the last ten years, and while school leavers might previously have gone to university because they felt there was no other choice, now that choice genuinely exists. At its simplest level, it’s a question of understanding whether you learn best by studying or by doing. That’s part of that self-awareness that employers are looking for. Learning by studying is met effectively by a university experience, but learning by doing is met very effectively in the workplace, and degree apprenticeships and school leaver programmes include academic and sometimes also professional qualifications through the working experience. There is much more choice now, and I think employers are much more aware of how that choice helps develop great future employees.”