One may ask “why is an undergraduate degree necessary in the first place?” Statistics show individuals with undergraduate degrees make more income than ones without a college degree. Yes, there has been negative press related to the cost of education and the extended “pay back” period related to accumulated debt. However, contrary to these thoughts I feel an undergraduate education is a fundamental tool and requirement to excel into today’s world. Yes, there are exceptions, think Steve Jobs, but in all other cases individuals without a degree are in my humble opinion at a disadvantage. Why you may ask? Today’s businesses require certain skills. These skills are hard to master as self-learner. Colleges offer a student career tracks which enable a student to learn and apply various concepts to include technology. When I evaluate a candidate for certain positions education is an important piece of the hiring process. In fact individuals will not be considered without a college degree.
For example a business’ customer service department may require a college education where in the past one was not needed. The complexity of today’s customer service department requires individuals with management skills beyond simply taking orders. Empowering employees in a lean environment transfers problem solving and service recovery when things go wrong from the manager to the employee. This requires an individual to apply organizational theory in a practical environment. Where better to learn and simulate these tools than in college!
So how do you market this degree to have an edge over the competition? Your undergraduate degree is vital tool in your tool box. I must assume your degree was in pursuit of your interests. For example, my mother wanted me to pursue an accounting background. It was a good career choice in her eyes. I do not hate accounting but that area of study does not give me the warm fuzzes! Instead I liked to build “stuff’. I chose to pursue a concentration that I would enjoy doing, operations. This revelation became apparent as I progressed in my studies.
That said, when I review resumes, a prime marketing tool, of newly minted undergraduate students I appreciate the candidates that add specific topics he/she learned in school. Simply stating an undergraduate degree say in business is simply not enough. Honing in on areas of concentration to include specific skills learned is a good tool to market your accomplishments. The addition of specifics provides the reviewer insight to your body of knowledge and will also provide key talking points. Add details and specifics. Is the school you attended important? Ask yourself, is brand and reputation important? That itself is a strong marketing tool and can be used to your advantage!
For individuals with work experience the undergraduate degree is a bit hidden behind work history. But the degree still serves an important purpose, validation of the achievement. Too often I see a brief statement under the sub heading “education” which states the school and degree. Retaining the detailed area of study will serve as a stimulus to the reader of skills learned something that may be missing elsewhere.
Final note, an undergraduate degree is something only 30% of the U.S. population achieves. As I shared above, barriers to entry in many occupations will only increase over time. We can think of an undergraduate degree similar to apprentices in the trades. An undergraduate degree shares theory and provides supervised practice in the student’s quest to master a particular skill set.
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About the Author
Pete Papantos is an operations director at a Fortune 500 company. He is responsible for the global execution of their strategic plan and driving operational excellence using lean methods. In addition, Pete is a graduate instructor with emphasis in operations and strategic management — both in traditional and online settings.