Why Skill Set Is More Important Than Your Degree

4 tradesmen working in the bright outdoors

Last updated: 30th November 22

Applies to: Jobseekers and Candidates

 

Looking to stand out in the job search? Focus on your skill set.

Long gone are the days when degrees are the ultimate standard of achievement and ability.

Instead, the rising costs of education coupled with the rising demand for skilled labour has put us in a unique situation — focusing on the person instead of the paper — for the first time in decades.

But what exactly do we mean by “skill set,” and how can you show your future employer that you have what it takes to fill the position you’re after, regardless of your degree or lack thereof?

In this article, we’ll explore why your skill set is more important than your degree and give you actionable tips to land your dream gig.

 

How To Stand Out in a Competitive Job Market

Let’s face it: the job market is a little crazy and competitive right now.

Between layoffs, remote and hybrid opportunities, trade skills being in high demand, and a shift in the overall mentality of work-life balance, things are, well, different.

As the way we work shifts, more and more companies are relying less on degrees and focusing more on wide skill sets instead.

This means highly competitive job opportunities don’t necessarily require a piece of paper saying you completed coursework in a relevant area of study. Of course, some companies do still look at your degree, but they don’t necessarily base all of their hiring decisions on that.

For example, just because you have a prestigious degree from an Ivy League school doesn’t mean you have the work ethic and drive to truly be successful in that line of work, and businesses are recognising that.

In addition, with the rising costs of education, not everyone is able or willing to fork out a significant amount of money to get a degree these days. Employers are beginning to recognise that more and more and offer opportunities for people to show equivalent job skills through things like assessments, topic-specific boot camps, and relevant job experience.

That means your competitive edge and advantage come from the unique skills, experiences, and abilities you’ve acquired over your life and how you put those to work.

 

The Importance of a Skill Set

Honing your skill set for your dream job takes time and dedication.

You can’t expect to be an expert in marketing or machinery on day one.

Instead, by collecting different abilities and knowledge over time, you are gathering the skills necessary to perform a task or series of tasks. Sometimes, you may not even know you’re doing it! But each situation you find yourself in is qualifying future-you for unique opportunities.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to be a jack of all trades to be valuable to a company, but your diverse experiences can make you versatile and an excellent investment for employers.

For example, let’s say you are applying for a sales position at a tech company. You’ve never worked in a sales capacity before, but you have 10+ years of experience in marketing and customer service at a large retailer.

While these jobs don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, the skills you acquired, like people management and persuasive language, are excellent precursors to the requirements of a sales position. In fact, they may help you stand out and succeed faster than your colleagues because you understand how people think.

The bottom line? These valued skills are often more likely to get you hired than your degree.

 

How to Build a Skill Set

If you’re unsure how to go about building the skill set needed for your dream job, we can help. While you’ve acquired skills throughout your career, there may still be gaps in your resume that you want to fill with the right things.

Here are a few things you can do to build your skills:

 

1. Find a Need and Fill It

Looking to stand out?

Find a need and fill it.

As you look at an organisation, identify the things that they need help with and how you could be of service.

If you’re looking to go into administration, it could be as simple as noting that no one actually understands the copy/fax machine’s entire process and that everyone gets frustrated when error messages occur.

In this case, maybe you don’t just know how to change the paper or clear the screen. Maybe you learn how long it needs to warm up, how to load the paper properly, how to clean the trays, how to empty the waste toner reservoir, when and how to order supplies, and when the company needs a service technician.

While this is a simplified example, by learning how it works, you go from a person who simply uses a copy machine to the go-to person who understands the intricacies of the whole system.

This is a prime example of finding a need and filling it. Even if you start a notch above the copy machine expert, there are myriad ways you can identify needs in an organisation.

 

2. Develop Your Skills

Find ways to practise and develop what you want to know. Seek out a mentor. Ask for opportunities to practise. Raise your hand when your company or department needs someone to fill in.

Constantly finding ways to practise and showing your interest in learning new skills gives you a leg up when a company is looking to hire for a new position or when you’re trying to flesh out your resume for a job you really want.

This is also a perfect time to step outside your comfort zone and continue to build relationships with individuals in your field and outside of it. You never know when networking and learning from others will help you in the future.

 

3. Stay Up to Date

Industries are frequently changing, and what worked a few years — or even a few months — ago may not work right now or in the future. This is especially true in rapidly-developing fields such as marketing, copywriting, and web development.

Some key ways that you can stay up-to-date is to take online courses or research new trends that will take the marketing world by storm in the coming months or years. For example, in 2023, there will be new ways to shop online through the Shopping Graph, and Google will prioritise websites that optimise their EAT factors.

Don’t find yourself playing catch-up. Instead, stay ahead of the curve by seeking information out. That way, when you are pitching yourself to a future employer, you have valuable and timely knowledge to share.

 

Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills

We’ve talked a lot about skills themselves, but there are two different skill categories that are important to develop and hone.

 

Soft Skills

Soft skills are the abilities you have that help you work with others. They often fall under communication, interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, teamwork, and adaptability.

These skills are essential in every line of work and at every level (e.g. stockroom to CEO), so they are more than just an item you include on your resume or a box you check. They’re vital to how you perform tasks and how effective you are at your job.

As you’re identifying which soft skills you personally need to develop, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Ask your superiors and colleagues to share the areas they think you could improve in, and then take action to work on those skills.

For example, maybe your boss shares that they’ve noticed you have a hard time adapting when plans change, and priorities shift. Maybe you’ve never noticed this about yourself, but you can look back at some of the examples they give and see how it could be true.

The next time you are presented with a change in policy, timeline, or plan, take a minute to think about all perspectives. Why do you think this change occurred? And how can you adapt to the current circumstances?

By taking a minute to see how you could support this decision, you’re helping alleviate the stress of a likely already stressful situation.

These types of thoughtful approaches toward growth and actively working to implement feedback give you the ability to truly hone your skills. Your coworkers may even start to notice and appreciate the ways you’re stepping up.

 

Hard Skills

Hard skills are more quantifiable and include the technical skills and knowledge you need to perform a task.

For example, when you see a job posting listing certain qualifications, like knowledge of Google Suite, WordPress, Photoshop, etc. they’re looking for your actual ability to use those programs.

So, building hard skills means finding opportunities to learn and acquire them! If there’s a particular skill you know your dream job requires, take an online course, play around with the software, build your portfolio, offer to do work for friends.

If you get creative, you can find ample ways to get that skill on your resume.

Note: Some industries have very niche-specific software that isn’t readily available outside of a company’s subscription. Seek out professionals in your desired field and see if there are ways you can shadow, intern, or gain access to these programs in a learning capacity.

You may be surprised at how willing people are to help you gain these skills! It’s all about a willingness to ask questions and find the answers.

 

Highly Sought-After Skills

Developing both your hard skills and your soft skills makes you a more well-rounded and valuable employee and teammate.

So, to help you know where to focus your energy, here are some of the most highly-sought-after skills in today’s job market:

  • Time management
  • Data analysis and statistics
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Adaptability
  • Critical thinking
  • DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) Experience
  • Team management
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Persuasion

 

While you certainly don’t have to learn all of these skills, noting that employers are searching for individuals with the capacity to do one or more of these things can help you know how to pitch yourself in interviews and prepare yourself for the gig.

 

Putting Your Skill Set to Work

Whether you already have a wide skill set or are looking to cultivate new skills and build out your resume, remember that honing your skills is more important than your degree in today’s market.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to college or pursue higher education; it just means that the way you go about utilising your skills and building them is a more accurate marker of your ability to perform a job.

In addition, by asking for feedback, focusing on the areas you need to improve, and deciding which hard and soft skills you should develop, you’re making yourself a stand-out candidate for your dream job — even if it’s a little at a time!

Your own unique experiences and abilities give you the real edge, so even if you don’t check every box on an employer’s qualifications list, chances are, you can learn to do the hard skills they’re asking for.

You’re also not on anyone else’s timeline. Building skills doesn’t have to be a race to the finish line. And while you can acquire some skills fairly quickly, there are others that take a great deal of practice to master. That’s okay! Your own journey is the only one that matters.

Still not sure how to begin? Your Career Partners can help you prepare for and find the right job.

We’re with you every step of the way, from the application process through your first six months on the job. Not only that, but we can help you build out your CV, prepare for interviews, know where to look for the job you want, and make the whole job search process feel a little less overwhelming.

No matter what your career goal is, we can help you navigate what’s next.

 

Putting Your Skill Set to Work

Whether you already have a wide skill set or are looking to cultivate new skills and build out your resume, remember that honing your skills is more important than your degree in today’s market.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to college or pursue higher education; it just means that the way you go about utilising your skills and building them is a more accurate marker of your ability to perform a job.

In addition, by asking for feedback, focusing on the areas you need to improve, and deciding which hard and soft skills you should develop, you’re making yourself a stand-out candidate for your dream job — even if it’s a little at a time!

Your own unique experiences and abilities give you the real edge, so even if you don’t check every box on an employer’s qualifications list, chances are, you can learn to do the hard skills they’re asking for.

You’re also not on anyone else’s timeline. Building skills doesn’t have to be a race to the finish line. And while you can acquire some skills fairly quickly, there are others that take a great deal of practice to master. That’s okay! Your own journey is the only one that matters.

Still not sure how to begin? Your Career Partners can help you prepare for and find the right job.

We’re with you every step of the way, from the application process through your first six months on the job. Not only that, but we can help you build out your CV, prepare for interviews, know where to look for the job you want, and make the whole job search process feel a little less overwhelming.

No matter what your career goal is, we can help you navigate what’s next.

 

Check out our related articles:

 

Still need help?

For tips on how to write that perfect cover letter, how to negotiate your salary, and how to show your boss you have potential, check out our website! We’re here to help.

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