Optimizing Intelligence over Education
don’t have a bachelor's degree. I’m over letting this single sentence define me.
Part of the formal recruitment process for most jobs means checking a box online: Do you have a college degree? It’s hard not to be defensive in this situation.
Walking into every interview, I’d see degrees hanging on the walls of each office as a reminder of what I deemed as failure. I spent the first part of my career comparing myself to pieces of paper, determined to prove myself to the people who owned them.
Fast forward 15 years and you find me here. A confident professional with an established career. I wish I could go back and tell new-hire Randy to stop comparing and start embracing what I had to offer. Though hard work resulted from feeling like I had to prove myself beyond my lack of education, shame could have been avoided if I had focused on the positive much earlier.
What I lacked in education, I made up for in intelligence.
Education says, “Tell me what I need to know.” Intelligence asks, “How do I find out what I need to know?”
By pursuing knowledge in an nontraditional fashion, I gained connections, experience and intelligence. I learned to optimize what I did know and ask the right questions to find out what I didn’t. Regardless of if you started college and didn’t finish, never started, or graduated and are not sure what to do now, this post is for you. I want to help you be confident in your job search by teaching you to prioritize your intelligence over your education.
Capitalize on your interpersonal skills.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your connections. Be up front about how they can help you, and never stop growing your network. Whether you are connecting on LinkedIn, or meeting people face-to-face, you never know whenyou could bump into someone looking to a fill a position with a person of your exact skill set. Apart from my first full-time job in sales, all my professional positions have come from informal hiring processes.
Once you are past the initial screening process for a job,you are being interviewed as a person, not the accomplishments listed on your resume. Find a way to relate to the interviewer on a personal level.
Don’t allow yourself to be categorized as degreeless or entry-level.
Showcase your skills in a unique way. Be confident in the experiences that have developed you into a professional, even if those experiences aren’t traditional. In fact, if they aren’t traditional, but you can show how they put you ahead, you will stand out.
There is no doubt that I’d rather hire someone with a good attitude and the ability to learn, than someone with a prestigious diploma. Initiative,humility and personality can win out over someone with traditional education.
Get involved in the community surrounding you.
You can develop professional skills in many places other than a classroom. Research the skills you want to develop. Practice applying them by volunteering for organizations in need. The best way to learn is by doing and you will help people along the way!
Risk is a relative term.
It is easy to feel like if something goes wrong, it will end your career. The reality is at any entry-level position, you don’t have a career yet. This is a positive thing.
Experience is nothing more than making decisions and learning from the results. When you apply for a job you don’t think you’ll get or ask someone for assistance landing an interview, only good things will come.The worst anyone can say is no, and you have still gained valuable insight for the next time.
Truth be told, I recently removed the University of Arizona from my LinkedIn page. Even though I’ve grown as a person and professional, it was hard to let go that someone might go looking for it in the future. I used to think by having my college attached to my LinkedIn, no one would notice there wasn’t a graduation date in tow. In order to represent myself 100%truthfully, it had to go.
By removing it, I empowered myself further to put my own intelligence over education. I hope this encourages you to realize you are worthy as a person, regardless of a mahogany-framed diploma.