Can you get a good job without a college degree? Is that even possible?
The university recruitment office would have you believe you can’t. And for some people and some careers a four-year college degree (and the debt that goes with it) is 100% non-negotiable.
But for many of jobs, that college degree isn’t absolutely necessary.
My best friend of 20 years dropped out of college and now has a well-paid corporate job, working alongside people with four-year degrees and even M.A.s. Here’s how she found a great job without completing college.
After completing a very intense 2-year college-prep program, graduating with honors, being granted a scholarship and feeling convinced I would go on to pursue a Master’s program to become a college professor someday, I just quit college.
After three years of undergrad, when the end of my last semester was over, I left with full intentions to return after a break and complete my degree, then power through to grad school.
At first, I wanted to take time and evaluate what I was doing at school: it was so expensive, I worked and paid for most of it myself, and the longer I was there the more convinced I became that I didn’t want to grow up and be an Artist.
My only option seemed to be to pile on years of education in order to carve out a living I’d be comfortable with. Aside from that, like a lot of 20-somethings, the thought of planning my entire career RIGHT NOW was really scary.
Alternately, my mind was filled with the image of having a happy home, sunny weekends, good friends and the notion that I’d have a job that was enjoyable and helped me create a comfortable lifestyle.
But enough about me, back to you…you want to find a career, college isn’t really your thing. You’ve been in college now for quite some time, but it seems that you may not finish, or another opportunity comes along OR you plain old fall in love with an idea that you know will take you down the right path for your life.
The truth about how to get a good job without a college degree
How to tell your family you’re dropping out of college
Talk to them often about your intentions.
Try to express yourself without becoming too defensive – chances are they might not be supportive. Many people, parents included, think that college is the Only Key to Success.
Tread lightly and smartly and they will appreciate that you took time to think about it and that you let them be involved, even if they don’t agree with your motives.
If you want to leave college without a plan, consider talking to your guidance counselor, a favorite professor or your parents. Maybe you just need to change your major?
How to find a job without a college degree
Consider pulling together a resume with the help of someone you trust, sending it out, lining up an interview or two and maybe even getting a new job before you drop out of school. Having employment is going to make this new life much easier because you won’t be living off student loans.
Think about what you like to do- what your goals are, how can you get there? (This shouldn’t be too difficult. Remember? You already talked to your parents about it.)
You may just get the job, they can only say no.
Interviewing takes practice. You should have some ideas about the questions that might be asked of you and more importantly, you should wrangle your confidence, know your value and have some answers at the ready.
There may be an entry level job in that organization. If you show up to the interview motivated and willing to compromise you might just wind up working in that museum after all. You won’t be a curator, but you will get to work under the marketing director, or security division. You can make a modest paycheck and spend your lunch break walking the galleries!
How to talk about your lack of a degree in an interview
Be sure that your intention to learn and grow with a company is known, and find out if the company you want to work for is offering that. What if they ask about your degree? Be honest, but not brutally honest.
Don’t say, “I left college because getting an Art degree started to seem like bunch of BS.” It is still true to say, “I want an opportunity to get hands-on work experience, grow with a company, and be sure that when I return to school for a degree, it’s the degree I want.”
In my case, I didn’t finish college because I wanted something that in my mind was better than what my undergrad degree would have offered me. In hindsight, I can see that I just wanted to pave my own way, even if it was more difficult.
Ten years after leaving college, I’ve worked my way from coffee girl/receptionist to defining my own position as the first ever marketing coordinator at an environmental company.
Not all glamour, but sacrificing some income up front gave me the opportunity to grow with a company, learn an industry, work on my creative skills and pick up on some aspects of business I’d never have been privy to in a larger company. I have also made some incredible friends.
How to get your dream job without a college degree
Show your employer your skills, and ASK for projects you think you can do well that will highlight those skills.
Find out if your company offers any professional development programs and take advantage of them.
Take a community education course or enroll in a night class that pertains to your interests and career intentions. And keep doing it.
Read everything you can get your hands on about your goal.
Find a way to stay current on any software that might pertain to your skills.
Join a professional group of people that do what you want to do and network your butt off.
Look for part-time internships doing something you love.
Find a mentor.
Have any of you skipped the college route? Any questions for Darcie?