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Skills—Not Degrees—Will Shape the Future of Work

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Isn’t it funny how we spend the first one-third of our lives earning a degree? Those who decided to become a lawyer, doctor, or pursue a post-graduate degree will have spent more time on building their knowledge rather than competing in the market. But today, it is not so impossible to see non-degree holders succeeding in their respective careers. People are doing jobs that they have not earned a degree for.

The implication of earning a degree is that people must use it for the next two-thirds of their lives. The belief is that the degree will bring them success in that field. It is equivalent to a professional passport that will take you high above the corporate ladder. But this is not true, right? Everyone knows that it is not true.

The past decade showed how important skills are over the degrees you took and finished. Of course, it is different when you’re joining the legal and medical profession. Those are highly technical professions that need the absoluteness of a degree. But for other jobs, people can survive and thrive well enough using the skills they gained through life, past jobs, relationships, and school.

How Recruiters Are Hiring Jobseekers

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Experts said that more than 80 million jobs will be lost to artificial intelligence and automation by 2025. In the next decade, more than a billion jobs, a third of the jobs available worldwide, will be transformed by technology. What does this say? It means that although you and your parents have held the same job based on your degree for decades, there is a big chance your children will not. They will need more than a college degree to compete in the job market.

Recruiters are using web recruitment software to identify, filter, and process the applications of candidates. These new tools are not only designed to identify academic qualifications but are focused on determining the skill level of the candidates that will make them perfect for the job posting. Think of the many apps and tools being used in industries right now. Those who are managing these tools do not have college degrees related to the field, but they are making the most out of them.

Data and Artificial Intelligence

Roles in automation, data analysis, and artificial intelligence don’t need college degrees. These can be learned even those without relevant degrees. In fact, think of the person who is manning your company’s data analysis today. Think of your role in the company. These tools are not present when you studied in college, but aren’t you considered an expert in using digital and online recruitment tools? Isn’t your marketing manager the go-to person when the company needs information about online marketing campaigns, sales, and digital content?

What the Pandemic Says About Degrees vs. Skills

The pandemic showed that college degrees are still important. People with college degrees are less likely to lose their jobs than those without. The pandemic left many people without jobs, but those with college degrees are more inclined to find an alternative than people without them. If you shift the focus from degrees to skills, you will notice a change in statistics. As employers started to hire based on skills, they could close employment gaps and diversify their workforce.

Instead of focusing on hiring people with college degrees, many employers actually shifted to hiring people with the right skills—problem-solving, the ability to work remotely, a collaborative mindset, and an eye for details. People can learn these skills via experience. In fact, there are not many new graduates armed with these skills. But during the pandemic and in the time of recovery now, these skills became more important than your college degree.

Why is that? The world has changed overnight. Jobs are no longer about absolute capacities and abilities. Jobs are now more flexible. They demand more from people. Sure, your college degree will give you an edge over another person without it, but organizations already know that a college degree will only take an employee as far as they allow themselves. A company’s success hinges on its employees’ openness for learning, social skills, and ability to think outside the box. These do not reflect on a college degree.

This does not mean that your college degree is no longer important. It is, but only when it is coupled with soft and holistic skills. Your college degree will not mean a thing if it teaches you nothing but hard skills. Employers are looking for more than just someone who can do their tasks well. They are looking for someone who can navigate the complexities of the market and who can deal with the ever-changing realities of the economy.

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