January 11, 2010

How to Say It: I have no degree, but hire me

Filed under: How to Say It, Interviewing

Discussion: January 12, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

In today’s newsletter: A reader without a college degree wonders how to win a job where a degree is required.

I have ten years of work experience, but I do not have a degree. What is the best way to answer when an interviewer asks why I do not have a degree? I know that my experience is more than sufficient to do the jobs that I am applying for. How should I answer this question? Can I get around my lack of a degree?

Can it be done? Have you done it? How would you advise this reader to tell it to the manager?

How do you say it?

(If you’re manager, when is a college degree negotiable, if at all?)

.

27 Comments on “How to Say It: I have no degree, but hire me”
By Blake Kanewischer
January 11, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can say to me (an IT hiring manager in government) that will get you past our screening criteria.

In a government or other unionized setting, if a degree is stated as a requirement for a position, it is non-negotiable. I risk a grievance being filed should I hire an individual who does not meet the stated qualifications for the position. At best, I can hire an employee who is within one year of meeting the requirement for the position, but this requires a lot of work for me with HR–and I’m not likely to do it unless you’re a rock star.

With that said, I would consider exploring your options to obtain a degree through prior learning assessment. However, be aware that I and many others have a jaundiced view of certain educational institutions that are technically regionally accredited, but provide a questionable education, at best.

My sense is that your best opportunities to obtain a position without a degree are in smaller and non-unionized workplaces, where you have a fighting chance of having a decision made in your favour (and you can identify the decision-maker!).

In that case, I would encourage you to follow Nick’s advice and do the job in the interview–and, at the same time, pursue the necessary credential on your own time and dime.

Good luck!

By Jason
January 12, 2010 at 12:24 am

I work for a large corporation, and technicians used to be able to work their way up to engineer without a degree. But that was changed as a matter of policy. This was around the time that the Feds tightened up labor laws relating to who may be considered an exempt employee. So I suspect the heavy hand of government may make employers reluctant to hire someone for a salaried (exempt) position without having a degree. Employers can face large fines and backpay if some bureaucrat decides they crossed the line.

Sorry that’s not much in the way of advice, but it shows what you may be up against.

By Nic
January 12, 2010 at 4:49 am

I am an adult completing a science degree this year. Do I feel any different or more talented than before? Hell no. Am I? I may know more narrow specifics in my field of science, which I certainly could have learned by reading a few more books but in terms of management or personal leadership or my ability to head a project? No. I am the same person with a piee of paper and this idea that that given piece of paper is going to turn you into something you are fooling yourself. This push for degree after degree in this country has led this country to ruin. Moreover, as far as this jauniced view over ‘some’ regionally accredited institutions that is being held that to me is complete nonsense since the university has met standard, end of story. What you are saying sounds a hell of a lot to me like discrimination. This entire issue has in 2010 now turned into a spin cycle and a never-ending quest for a damn piece of paper that is NOT going to make you anything more than you are now. You may wind up a bit more knowledgeable in an area but it is not going to change your character. I know many overeducated idiots with no sophistication and hence no success. Is this degree issue such an issue that so many multi-degree individuals are working minimum jobs today? Because they can’t find that ticket promised to them when they got their paper. This entire thread is sickening and disheartening to me and only benefits universities and their overpaid administrations. Anyone notice the rise in college tuition this year again? While endowments are in the millions. Wake up people, and be educated adults before you die…with or without a piece of paper telling you are.

By John Zabrenski
January 12, 2010 at 8:48 am

My wife works in benefits for a regional IT company that provides people and service to companies looking to outsource IT work. As part of the hiring process, she sees the resumes and work histories of the applicants. In many ways IT is the last frontier for those with skills and talent, but not necessarily the right degrees. People land high paying jobs at her company have BA degress in Art History, Economics, English, etc. and not Computer Science. They are more interested in your work history and skills than your paper. Once in, you are judged on your ability to bring in and retain business. Period.
In contrast, I work for a large, German owned Chemical company. They follow the European practice of requiring certain degrees to advance. When they bought the company I used to work for, one of the directors was fired, because he “only” had a BS degree in Chemical Engineering and not the PhD degree they required for that level. He went out and formed his own startup company in a similar field to what he did here. I wouldn’t be surprised if we bought him out if he is successful in this endeavor. He may just get the last laugh.
IMHO, if you can cut it for ten years without a degree, it’s probably moot unless you are interested in a very narrow field where an advanced degree is required.

By MBA Vince
January 12, 2010 at 8:56 am

The impact of how getting the degree will actually change your character might hinge on the age bracket of the student. A young person, with little real-world experience will be molded (for better or worse) by those early adult experience in school: intelligent peer groups, studying abroad, challenging intellectual discussions about a variety of subjects. At no point in one’s adult life would they have that opportunity, which can usually be funded by grants, scholarships, and (gasp!) loans.

An adult learner is likely to refrain from the overseas experience and not engage in the late night conversations due to work-family obligations. Total emergence in the student experience is tempered by adult responsibilities.

That being said, I find it sad to say that schools are indeed promoting their own aggrandizement and revenue stream, encouraging students to keep pushing for more education when it is usually unaffordable and brings less and less pay off each year (especially if you major in the humanities – which is incredibly important for a well-rounded cultural perspective – but lacks the “hard skills” that our mechanistic culture craves).

As a former recruiter for a video game company, it all came down to skill. What can you do? Show me! However, I think this is changing as the competition pool tightens and many people can do the same thing, the only differentiating factor is if they have the 4-5 year degree (or more). Without much difference in salary.

By Chris Walker
January 12, 2010 at 9:58 am

Nick–Welcome back & Happy New Year. I was beginning to have withdrawal symptoms without my ATH fix.

Your questioner needs to remember that these days, with hundreds or even thousands applying for a particular job, HR is focused more on eliminating people than hiring them. And they don’t want to work that hard at it if they don’t have to, so they often go for the easy ones like degree requirements, receptionists required to lift 50 lbs (I open the box of copy paper take out one ream at a time), or even better making the must haves so stringent the candidate is intimidated from applying in the first place. This is why the questioner should focus on personal contacts and referrals in their search.

There is a marketing/image aspect to this also. I applied to a small IT services company sometime back. I knew I was better than at least 2 of their techs as I had watched them work. The company required one of the Microsoft certifications so their advertising could say ‘100% Microsoft Certified’. I did not have an MCSE, MCSA etc. Bottom line–no cert no job. Sometimes that’s just the way it is. Had I been more diligent in my research, I would have known it.

By G
January 12, 2010 at 12:44 pm

The ‘heavy hand of government’ does define exempt/nonexempt employment status but if you read the rules you’ll see that having a degree is a minor consideration. Mostly it is based on the employee’s duties and how s/he is paid.

There are a few professions where degrees are truly required, such as medicine, but for most it’s a preference of the employer. Some companies and some managers prefer hiring people with degrees. Some have written that into un-changeable company policies. Your best bet is to find out where that’s true and not waste your time with those companies.

You’ll also find that a job may be treated by HR as if it required a degree when neither the company nor the manager has stated that requirement. HR often takes a manager’s ‘nice to have’ or ‘must have 5 of these 10 things’ list of qualifications and treats it as a checklist that every candidate must pass. The more you can do to reach the manager and show what you can do and have done, the better off you’ll be.

By JB King
January 12, 2010 at 2:19 pm

In a way this depends a bit on the field. For example, my father who is now retired was a high school drop out but worked as a milk man for most of his life. He worked on his dad’s farm and got into the business that way along with his brother that got him in young. If the questioner’s story is similar, it can be as simple as, “I didn’t see a great significance in my life to getting a degree when I graduated high school,” or similar. This does somewhat box the applicant as the challenge is to be able to say, “Yeah I can do this job. Give me a chance,” while still answering the question in some respects.

I’d probably suggest smaller companies rather than large companies for where to apply to improve the chances of getting hired as the smaller company may have less bureaucracy in place. My uncle doesn’t have a degree but he worked in IT for a number of years but eventually did get fired due to company acquisitions and some not wanting to keep him around.

By L.T.
January 12, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Three cheers for both Nic and MBA Vince. I tend to avoid those companies where “degree required” and worse yet “old school tie” is required to get in.

As I get older and older, I feel the payoff is less and less for the adult learner at a traditional college, especially in terms of educational and social interactions with your classmates. I just don’t see the invitations to informal study groups, coffee shop study, or the party with the Omega Beta Zeta sorority coming the older student’s way. But supposedly these all come with the hyper-inflated price of admission at “Ye Olde Brick and Mortar.

My last interview (for a fairly large company) was about perfect for a seasoned employee: The manager called my references, made some inquiries with people already on staff about the work I had done for the company as a 1099 contractor, and offered me the position about a half hour after the phone interview. I showed up on the agreed date, and went to work.

As an aside, I think the ubiquitous “lift 50 pounds” requirement is code for “no older folks need apply” … unless the position is for personal trainer in the company gym!

By VJ
January 12, 2010 at 2:57 pm

I believe that there are essense of things I can totally agree with among the earlier comments. However, I believe for the person asking the questions, “what to say when asked why I don’t have a degree”, the first line of Nick’s response is the only answer…tell the interviewer the real reason you don’t. To do anything else would never be supportable long term. Now, the good news is that when you apply or a position and the company calls you in for an interview, I believe (just based on your statements within the question)that its speaks volumes for the flexibility the company is willing to show relative to a degree requirement. So then, with a very positive attitude and a really high level of confidence taht this company really wants me….explain your lack of a degree, but then immediately go into “why” hiring you would be an immediate “plus” for the company. Hope this helps….

By Peter Weil
January 12, 2010 at 4:20 pm

How to say I don’t have a degree, but you are completely qualified to do the work required:

1. Never apologize for not having a degree. I hope you wouldn’t apologize verbally, but remember your tone of voice and body language communicates much more than the words you utter. Therefore, confidence in yourself and your abilities is manditory.

2. In some astute circles, five years of productivity equals a four year degree. That you CAN verbalize.

3. A group of us did a survey of 100 medium to large New York employers. Most said that they prefer/require a degree to minimize the applicant traffic and of the few that really did require a degree, they had ALL made exceptions.

4. If you are 50+, unless you are pursuing the job of surgeon, engineer, et al, or lawyer (and there are lawyers who passed the bar without a degree) your needed four-year degree was obsolete well more than a decade ago.

Therefore, in my opinion, if you demonstrate your qualifications and if demonstrate your problem solving abilities for previous employers…don’t go after a position that requires a degree is a criminal act unto yourself.

By Nic
January 12, 2010 at 4:26 pm

There have been a number of impressive responses, yet I have to say, Peter Weil, you NAILED everything in my mind …100% to the finest detail.

By Suzanne
January 12, 2010 at 4:38 pm

I was in the same situation about 15 years ago. I worked for a company that did not require a degree for executive and leadership positions. They said they preferred to train and promote people from within as a reward, but in reality it kept us under-qualified and under-paid. You may find suitable work, but you might find yourself trapped and under-appreciated.

Here is what I would try to convey:

Sometimes being successful on the job derails educational pursuits, you can tell interviewers that you devoted your time to learning the critical skills your past employers valued. Talk about what they expected of you and how you met their needs.

Not all learning takes place in the classroom; actually very little practical learning takes place there. You can say that you have taken full advantage of other types of learning opportunities such as being self-taught, attending training, teaching others, seeking mentors, volunteering for stretch assignments, reading industry reports, etc. Be prepared to describe this in detail. Demonstrate you have the requisite knowledge, show them work samples, use the same industry jargon they use, cite the same articles and books they read, ask them what they think about a recent trend, etc.

Tell them that your commitment to developing your skills and qualifications is a core value; ask them what their company does to support continuing education (flexible schedules, tuition reimbursement, corporate universities, conference attendance, etc.). Ask them what courses they think are the most beneficial and why – maybe you can use that discussion to help them see that you already have the qualifications they value.

The objective is to try to show that just because you don’t have formal credentials doesn’t mean that you can’t learn, haven’t learned and don’t intend to keep learning.

I wish I could tell you this strategy worked for me. But I grew tired of always having to address my lack of formal education and worried that I would go from one trap to another. I spent years earning a transfer degree part-time while working full-time and then went to school full-time to earn a BS and MS while working part-time.

I agree higher-education is over-rated, many employers think that most learning institutions do a poor job of preparing the workforce, but there is ample evidence that it is an advantage over no formal education.

By robert parkins
January 12, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Hi Nick, I would add one thing to your reply about not having a degree. If they have your resume they must think you are good enough for them to invite you to an interview. So I would suggest the opening gambit should be; “You will see I don’t have a degree and I would like to explain why”. There are many valid reasons why, and this gives the interviewee a golden opportunity to explain his successes without one, and how he can apply his KSA’s to the job in question and be successful for them. Just a thought, Robert

By Nick Corcodilos
January 12, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Some very smart employers could be cherry-picking new hires on this thread… ;-)

For those who feel they have to get the degree later in life (for whatever reason), there’s a a way to do it without taking all the courses. This is not a shortcut – it’s a legit way to test out of courses if you have the knowledge. You may not realize it, but you may have learned on the job what’s taught in some college courses.

Thomas Edison State College (NJ) is a state-funded, accredited, legit distance-learning college that caters to adults who are on the job and want/need to earn a degree. You pay to take legit tests and get awarded college credits that are transferrable. You take the rest of your courses online on a schedule that doesn’t make you quit your job.

Always the pragmatist ;-). Just beware of distance schools that are not accredited. Even more important, if you intend to earn your credits at one school, then transfer to another because you want a more prestigious school name on your sheepskin, make sure the latter will accept the credits you need to transfer. Take note that some schools will not accept external credits past a certain point in your academic career.

By JaneA
January 12, 2010 at 7:22 pm

MBA Vince

You raise some interesting points about how students, younger ones especially, are moulded by the university experience.

I believe that in doing traditional university study students unconsciously learn two major things about life.

One is that the main thing is to do the work. Hand in all your assignments on time, carry out other class requirements, don’t do anything hopelessly outrageous – and it seems that there’s an awful lot of leeway in this area – and you’ll succeed. Interpersonal skills aren’t going to make much difference. One could even say that they shouldn’t – that would be called favouritism.

The other is to expect that progress will happen according to a clearly-defined timeline. A basic degree takes three or four years, depending on where you live. You know when you are going to graduate, assuming you apply yourself. Similar things apply to advanced degrees.

So I can see younger people graduating and entering “real life” and finding that it’s utterly different. Personal communication style makes a huge difference to how you make progress, not just how well you do the work. You also find yourself in situations where there isn’t a clearly correct or incorrect way of doing something, as the assumption in academia tends to be. Progress and promotion doesn’t happen according to timetable in “real life” either. All these factors mean having to make a large and maybe painful adjustment.

I’ve also seen students continue to get advanced degrees, not because they have researched that the degrees are needed, but because they want to put off the crunch time of looking for work. Maybe they also think that with an advanced degree, they’ll have a built-in advantage over other people. But if everyone else has one, what then?

By Nic
January 13, 2010 at 8:55 am

Jane, brilliant nailing of points not already mentioned. I am not 21 year old. I am finishing my science degree this year. At age 46 I can say clearly from both previous college and vast professional experience that your post (esp. in the third paragraph) has clearly defined both the path of the robotic loser; and/or at least the proverbial “Yes Man” (or woman for that matter. ) The last paragraph also does a succinct job of outlining that in most circumstances, especially regarding advanced degrees, the time and enormous amounts of money shelled out may NOT pay off, well said, across the post.

By Nic
January 13, 2010 at 9:15 am

Nick makes very good points about college accreditations and transfer information. If a college is regional, and federally funded they have to be in check. I can speak for American Public University System/AMU. I am currently attending American Military University, which is online, and primarily serves the men and women in the military. Having considered a number of brick and mortar schools to complete my degree with quality standards I also did not want to alter my lifestyle therefore I explored doing it distance. That stated, having been in college in my 20s (at a very prestigious, highly competitive entry, very expensive private university) I can tell you with factual first hand experience of both private brick and mortar and online that for me AMU (fully accredited,) has been extremely demanding, and challenging, with writing standards far beyond my previous private university. A great number of my professors at AMU are PhDs, and often Ivy League trained. Most often, they are high-ranking military officers. The atmosphere is deadly serious, and frankly at times, I find far more demanding of my intellect, as challenging courses have to be dissected, and absorbed, largely on your own two feet with the scholarly support of your instructor when required. I am not in anyway selling a particular school, but that is my experience of completing a degree distance. Moreover, (not to degrade into a self-brag fest) being one who left high school at 17 (with an IQ of 187) I feel confident conveying what I have experienced regarding learning and universities, both online and off.

By Chris Walker
January 13, 2010 at 9:36 am

Robert Parkins makes a very important point that most job seekers (myself included until fairly recently!) miss because it is just way too obvious. If you get called for an interview, someone thinks you are at least minimally qualified for the position; otherwise, you wouldn’t be there sitting across the table from an interviewer in the first place. This means two things. First, the candidate must confirm her qualification for the position, so Nick’s advice to focus on the work and not her ‘deficiencies’ is key. His article ‘Age Discrimination or Age Anxiety’ offers a sound analysis of how the candidate’s worries can effect the interviewer’s perceptions. Second, this means that the interview is as much about those softer, vaguer things like ‘fit’ and personality and attitude as it is about minimum qualifications.

By Glenn
January 14, 2010 at 1:22 pm

A female colleague who works in software engineering had this degree/no-degree battle for many years. She had 20+ years experience, and some people made a big deal she didn’t have any diplomas or certification. She used to kid about it saying she graduated from UHK, University of Hard Knocks.

She had a great attitude about it, esp. being in a predomininantly male field.

Then after several years of successful self-employment she joined an employer who’d pay the tuition. She saw it mostly as a means of just complying with the “get the ticket punched” mentality. She got 3 degrees, including a PhD in robotics.

She points out she didn’t really learn much going to class that she wouldn’t have in the real world. Yet trying to convince employers of that was a hassle. Now it’s one less burden to deal with.

Incidentally, some of the best business people never went to school and were successful nonetheless. A classic hero is the late Dave Thomas who founded Wendy’s. Yet plenty of employers would deny him entry because of his not having sheepskin. (Sometimes, those who have the degrees are jealous and do NOT want to let anybody in who didn’t “struggle” like they did.)

By John
January 14, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Following on from what Peter Weil said:

“2. In some astute circles, five years of productivity equals a four year degree. That you CAN verbalize.”

I totally agree with that and used it to my advantage.

Here is what I said (& did) when I faced the same dilemma:

‘I realise that I don’t have an undergraduate degree, my plan is to obtain an MBA from an institution that equates my work experience as being the equivalent of an undergraduate degree’.

However – this statement could only get me so far & it eventually came time to back it up with actions.

I finished high school in Dec 1992 & started my first job in Jan 1993.

I was employed by a large bank at their lowest entry point (I was promoted to teller 6 months later).

After 5 years of working through the ranks it was apparent that I would struggle to gain a decent management position with the bank (& many other companies for that matter) without having a degree.

As we all know it is often a matter of policy, that preference for management positions would be given to those with a degree or actively studying for one.

I had no interest in completing a 4 year undergraduate degree & after some research I discovered that many MBA programs (and other degrees) are willing to accept students without an undergraduate degree.

To be accepted I had to provide a copy of my resume, sit a general university entrance exam and provide suitable references.

Luckily my resume was up to scratch, I nailed the exam & my referees said enough to convince the university that I was ‘student’ material.

So at the start of 2003 I became a fulltime student & by the end of the year I had gained an MBA (I took all the summer classes so that I could finish the course in a calendar year).

I must also say that even though I was skeptical that it would do so – I did in fact learn a lot more than I ever thought I would & it certainly improved what I can offer any potential employer.

By L.T.
January 14, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Glenn, I think you have nailed down the answer to the question “If a degree is a requirement, why did you call me in for an interview”?

There are those perverse interviewers that want to waste your time so they can berate your for not doing things the “right way”, or not accumulating several thousand dollars worth of student loans, or because they are in fact jealous over your success.

Very true the Dave Thomas would not get hired to be a shift manager at the restaurant chain he founded. Bill Gates would not get hired at Microsoft, even to sweep the floors. Same with Michael Dell.

By Maurreen Skowran
January 17, 2010 at 3:26 am

1.
Depending on the various factors, you might be able to turn your lack of a degree into an advantage. For instance, you can say that you learn things the hard way, you don’t need to be spoonfed.

You might be able to say, in a less cocky way than I say here, that you don’t have a degree because you haven’t needed one – that you can do the work expected, and more, and that you learned it on your own.

And if the company truly values diverse backgrounds, and you’ve been working and on your own since high school, you might add a different perspective.

3.
In my immediate family, I am the only person without a degree, but none of us went the traditional college route. One time when my mother was hired for a job, she was told that either a reason or *the* reason she was hired was because of the persistence she had shown to get the degree. It wasn’t the degree by itself that gave her the advantage, but the fact that she’d earned it while working and raising three children.

4.
A few people have brought up different options for getting a degree.

Nick gave the example of Thomas Edison State College. Another that has a very good reputation is Excelsior College in New York. I believe it offered the first external degrees in the United States (although it originally had a different name, Regents, I think).

Besides taking traditional or distance courses, another choice is to forego some or all of the classes but get credit through some type of evaluation. Usually, this is through testing, such as challenge exams at a traditional school, exams through an external-degree school, or programs such as the College Level Examination Program (the dominant program).

The tests could save you a lot of time, and maybe money. Depending on your background and goals, you might get a lot of credit without even studying.

For instance, I passed the five “general” CLEP exams – math, humanities, English comp, natural sciences, and social sciences and history. Individual schools make their own determinations about these tests. But together, these are typically worth about 30 credits – a year of college and a good chunk of the general education requirements.

Besides testing, a less common route is through a portfolio demonstrating college-level learning. (Portfolios – They’re not just for artists anymore!)

Also, remember community colleges. These typically cost much less than other schools and are often more attentive to nontraditional students.

5.
On a tangent — I agree that there is inflation of the perceived value of formal education. For example, the college orientation of our culture does a disservice to youngsters when it diminishes opportunities for vocational education in high school. Often, skilled trades often pay well but our culture dissuades students from exploring those fields.

By Rick Manning
April 12, 2010 at 8:57 pm

I want to thank everyone for their thoughtful comments. I’ve been struggling with this for nearly a year since I lost work. First, to Maurreen–Portfolios: They’re not just for artists anymore! Thirty years ago, a portfolio got me a job. Twenty years ago, a portfolio got me a very nice offer, which I turned down to stay on the first job. When my 30 year job went bye-bye, I fretted that my little portfolio might have grown useless in this modern age, but I kept it by my side, and now it keeps interviews going a little longer than they might without it.
Thank you for restoring my confidence in my little sidekick, my Portfolio of Accomplishment.

By Skeptic
June 7, 2010 at 4:45 am

As a former non-degree holder, I emphasized applicable experience while mouthing resolutions to eventually finish my education (which I did eventually). Being a software developer, knew others that didn’t have degrees, or ones in non-technical areas. Yet it seems directly applicable experience is no longer enough. So wanted to eliminate a bogus reason to be rejected. Not just beforehand (“its company policy”), several times I’ve actually been kicked out of interviews with hiring managers that were otherwise going well after it became clear I had no degree. Ridiculous? Of course. Although not a recent phenomena by any means, as the tech industry matures and jobs become ever more specialized, figured this trend would worsen by companies enforcing increasingly rigid screening criteria.

Having recently finished a degree mid-career, can attest that a non-traditional distance learning institution is a great way to go. Matriculated at Excelsior, took online classes at schools across the country and in person at an excellent local community college system. Having attended a traditional state university much earlier, found surprisingly little variation in the quality of instruction. Didn’t use testing for credit as much as anticipated, but it expedited completion. All very inexpensively (by careful course shopping and good advising) while working full time. Had no problem subsequently applying to state university online graduate programs across the country. (Everything was regionally accredited to aid transferability and acceptance.)

Although I don’t think this will make me a notably better worker, it was satisfying to verify that my practical experience was essentially equivalent to what my degree holding colleagues had learned. The knowledge gained informally as an older student made classes and tests (technical or otherwise) much easier than as a just ex-high schooler. And the theory (usually) made more sense for having real-world experience.

By Nick Corcodilos
June 8, 2010 at 10:04 am

@Skeptic: Nice job using the education system to your advantage! Maybe we could get employers to administer those same tests the distance schools use… to confirm that there’s a college somewhere that teaches what you already know! Then they can hire you without fear. ;-)

By R. Grimes
July 8, 2010 at 8:35 pm

I am a software engineer, making 6 figures, and I have no degree. If you don’t have a degree, but have the experience, just submit your resume anyway. If they can’t see that your experience more than makes up for not having a degree, then they’re idiots and you don’t want to work for them anyway. Those that won’t hire you because you don’t have a degree are probably the kind who talk incessantly about “thinking outside the box”, but then won’t hire you because you can’t check inside the box of “Yes, I have a degree”.

I recently interviewed with a company, and the VP asked me why I didn’t finish my degree. I explained it simply like this. “A year into my college education, I saw that the line ‘get a computer science degree and they’ll be lined up to hire you’ was just plain bull. So, I asked my advisor to see if he could get me an internship where I would work for free in exchange for experience. He did and I worked for 6 months until they had an opening for a full-time employee, and they extended me an offer. As a now full-time IT professional, I became very busy and no longer had time for both college and a full-time job. By the time my schedule opened up and I could consider going back to college, I found the coursework so elementary that I refused to spend 1000’s of dollars and an equal amount of hours to engage in such elementary studies just so I could check off a box. When you think about it, how much of what I was learning back in the 80’s would have an ounce of applicability in today’s software development environment? So, in retrospect, I think I made the smarter decision. I truly thought outside the box, and that is one more reason that you should hire me.”

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