Add Credentials to Your Degree

While a degree may add to your accomplishments and command of knowledge, it is not the only thing that makes up your credentials. Credentials validate the knowledge, skills and experiences you possess. From an employment perspective, they instill confidence in hiring. Personally, they provide a foundation of the strengths you have in yourself and can draw upon during your career.

An MBA education, as with most degrees, by itself is not special. Even MBA degrees from prestigious schools are not special. While your military experience is unique, (especially so when it is combined with an MBA degree), these only make up part of the credentials you will likely draw upon once you graduate.

Half of all recent college undergrads are either unemployed or underemployed. The unemployment rate for advanced degrees holders, including MBAs, is lower. Nevertheless, both un-and-underemployment rates for MBAs are too high. Let’s consider those who are gainfully employed. Chances are good that the other half of job seekers who are currently employed have more credentials than just a degree.

What about the military? We know the rates of unemployment outside the military are running twice as high for veterans as their civilian counterparts. Even though the experience of serving your country defines who you are and some of the experiences you have had it’s probably not enough of a credential for success in a civilian world.

The three credentials which will help you succeed are relevant internships, practical competencies and self-directed apprenticeships. Most are found outside of Higher Ed.

Internships lead to future employment and are more of an assurance of getting a job. One of the reasons student undergrads at Engineering schools report high job placement rates upon graduation (i.e., 80%-90%) is because they are required to do internships and work co-ops during their education. Every hiring manager and recruiter I have spoken with recently says college students who have interned make better hires. And people who make better hires get jobs.

Practical competence is making a comeback. When commenting on the tradeoffs of an Ivy league education, one hiring manager I recently profiled (who is herself a Harvard MBA) said, “I took too many interviews with grads of top schools who couldn’t talk through a rational argument.” One lesson is clear, a competitive degree from a prestigious university isn’t enough. You need practical competencies if you want to succeed. So find ways to show good judgement, solve problems, communicate effectively and be rational person. Having an understanding of basic human nature and fundamental knowledge of any field you enter will also take you far. Employers want knowledge and skills that can be practically applied.

Apprenticeships are common in other countries, but outside of some trade professions have never been part of the eduployment system here in the U.S.  As with so many aspects of your career that make you successful, you will have to direct an apprenticeship yourself.

Here are some ideas for self-directed apprenticeships. I know a recent college undergrad with a communications’ degree who has a passion for craft beer. He would love to work for a microbrewery.  Because of this he just returned from Belgium and Scotland where he traveled to gain first-hand knowledge about beer and scotch. This was a personal type of vocational pursuit he did all on his own. To me, it is an example of a self-directed apprenticeship.

More officially, the [E]nstitute accepts 15 applicants each year to do two-year apprenticeships with high-tech entrepreneurs in New York City. Students don’t get paid, but learn on-the-job skills they would most likely never have a chance to acquire in college classrooms. Both current and former students in the apprenticeship program are graduates of Ivy League schools.

We are all experiencing a new era in education and employment. They are no longer separate activities but increasingly combined. That’s why I call it eduployment. You can’t just rely on an advanced degree or your military experience. To find employment, you must know how to search for a job and offer employers a broader set of credentials in addition to your MBA degree.

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