Degree, Experience Or Interest: What Matters Most?

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A friend recently connected me to a contact of her’s because we have similar degrees.

Her friend wanted to work in the marketing and social media fields (which I work in) and wanted career advice.

The conversation centred on figuring out how much your degree matters versus experience and interest in the job hunt and in being selected for a role.

The conversation inspired me to jot down the following thoughts:

“Does my degree relate to what I do on a daily basis? Not directly; however, I use the skills I learned in my degree all the time as I do a lot of international marketing and student hiring.” —Chelsea Newton, Director of Talent Acquisition, Mosaic Sales Solutions

Degree

There are varying opinions on this one. I think the company you are applying to, and the hiring manager or recruiter you are working with, will dictate this one.

What a new grad’s degree is in absolutely plays a part in their fit for a role. With many careers such as nursing, engineering and accounting, having the right degree absolutely matters. But when we are talking about roles in marketing and social media, the lines are more blurry.

I am actually an arts grad myself and did a master’s degree in history, but I now work in talent acquisition and experiential marketing. Does my degree relate to what I do on a daily basis? Not directly; however, I use the skills I learned in my degree all the time as I do a lot of international marketing and student hiring.

My skills in researching, asking the right questions and understanding how culture shapes the present have all come into play when I start working in a new country and understanding how to tweak and tailor an existing program based on a culture’s needs.

I learned to do my research and ask the right questions. The key for new grads is relating your degree to the job you are applying for. If the connection isn’t obvious, make sure you clearly state it in your cover letter and interview.

Experience

Experience is huge! I worked in marketing the entire six years of my year degrees and thus it was very easy for me to parlay my part-time work into a full-time career – no matter what the focus of my degree was.

If you don’t have experience in the field you want to work in, get some! Volunteer, connect with friends, read, research and become well versed in the field. Companies are always looking for volunteers so this is an easy way to get experience in a new field.

Interest

From my point of view, interest is the driving force. According to many authors, passion is THE driving force in being successful.

If you have passion for a field, you will push yourself further and harder to learn more, do more and be better. Your interest will keep you persevering when the learning curve is steep and you don’t have the basic lingo others with a relevant degree have. You will stay up at night researching and reading, taking courses and getting up to speed. Interest and passion are what keep you going.

The key is in selling others on why you are a fit for a role if your degree isn’t a perfect match for the position. Know that you may not get past the resumé screen if a company has targets based on degree.

Positioning yourself in a cover letter is a key part of getting that first interview. Work hard in your resumé and cover letter to sell your skills.

If you are applying for a social media position and have an arts degree, showcase that you are active in the social media space by putting your blog or Twitter handle right in the title. The key to this is actually being active in these spaces! Remember, experience matters!

Cover letters are also a fantastic place where you can sell yourself and create connections between your degree, experience and interest to the position.

Good luck in the job hunt new grads!

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