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Brand Yourself: Your Degree is Not Enough


Graduates are grumbling- their degree didn’t get them what they’d hoped.  No longer will a degree guarantee a shiny lucrative career with enough income to pay off those precarious student loans.

To get noticed you must stand out. Your degree is nothing more than a piece of paper that states you’ve done the BARE MINIMUM to make yourself marketable to employers or graduate schools.   Don’t wait out the economy- the fact is, the job market and academia has changed- your degree is unremarkable.  You must be remarkable.


Even if the economy rebounded immediately- the fact remains the same, a degree does not have the clout it used to.  The answer to this isn’t to get a “higher degree,”  you’ll have the same problem applying for grad schools as you will applying for jobs.   Thousands of students are graduating each semester, and thousands more are enrolling in higher degree programs to wait out this bad economy- while a degree is essential for many careers, is it enough? Short answer: No.

The fact is, competition is fierce. Truth be told, hiring agents cannot see past the piece of paper- to the hours you labored over a tough chemistry exam, the the fact that you’re a first generation college student, or the blood/sweat/tears that you put forth above and beyond that of your peers to graduate with honors (or to graduate at all).  That piece of paper tells them nothing except that you at least meet the minimum qualifications for their position.   What will make you noticeable in a pile of degree-holding applicants is what is the papers of your resume, your cover letter and the impression you make on your interview.  Sadly though, these areas are rarely fully developed in the coursework required for today’s average baccalaureate degree.

Speaking from experience, I have seen plenty of qualified, recent graduates get rejected or just ignored for relying on their degree- even when that degree is from a prestigious university.  You owe it to yourself to stand out from the crowd, you cannot afford to blend in.



Market Yourself as More Than a Piece of Paper:

-Work for Free. The youth of previous generations had to work hard for years to reach levels of respectable status and income- your degree does not mean you get to expedite that process.  You will probably have to work just as much as they did, but you just did 4-6 years in a classroom first.   Intern at a company you’d like to work for, or at least get some experience volunteering at a company that’d look good on your resume.  You may not be getting paid, but you will be getting a line on your resume- which looks far better on paper than post-graduate unemployment.

-Research and Network. Somewhere, out there- is someone doing what you want to do.  Living the life you want to live.  Find these people, even if it’s just by reading their blog, watching their interviews on YouTube or reading their memoir.  Smart people have already written just about everything you need to know to get your dream job- I assure you, there is a probably a “Guide for Dummies,” on your given industry or topic.  Find people doing what you want to do and seek out their wisdom.


-Grow. Sadly, most universities today produce cookie-cutter degrees with cookie-cutter graduates.  You need to discover ways to differentiate from the pack.   Start filling your life with inspiration and experience that you didn’t get in the classroom.  Read books about people that have lead phenomenal lives, participate in the community and start doing things you’ve always wanted to do- travel, explore, question.  This is the time.  If you’re feeling downtrodden from the job hunt, you need to recharge your batteries, or perhaps explore a new way of approaching the search.


-Brand Yourself. The term “branding” is usually used for marketing- but increasingly it is used to market people.  Using social media and blogs to market yourself is a relatively new phenomena but has been hugely successful if done correctly.  Barack Obama comes to mind as someone who pioneered social media to get “hired,” as the United States President, but similarly, you can use blogging or social media to get yourself known and build credibility within your niche or industry.  Improving your contacts, writing skills and computer know-how can only boost your hireability.


More on Branding:

How to Brand Yourself in a Competitive Job Market– Q&A @MarketingProfs

How to Brand Yourself @RuckMakers

7 Secrets to Getting Your Next Job Using Social Media @Mashable

Career Building for Women


Our résumé is that notorious little piece of paper that often gets neglected and put off until we start searching for new job- but don’t wait for opportunity to find you, be ready with a slammin’ résumé!

Leaving your résumé to collect dust in your desk or in the realm of obscurity in the depths of your hard drive might be leaving opportunity on the table.  Many of us approach our résumé with reticence- we only want to face it when we want to apply for a job.  It almost seems counter-intuitive for those of us who want better careers and a more rewarding job to sit around and wait for opportunity to find us- so right now, go pull up your résumé or any other documents you might use, and print it out.  If you don’t have one- make one.

Being proactive with your career and aware of your skills (and where they need improvement) will lead to opporuntity.  Simply being ready for opportunity will bring it closer towards you.


Formatting: You can find templates online or use one of my favorite websites to build it-  Depending on your career goals, include them in your search.  Formatting a résumé for graduate school applications is totally different than applying for a job in finance!

Tailoring: If you’re “not sure what you want to do,” or what your résumé will be used for in the future- that’s fine!  You need to start or update your résumé so that you’ll be ready for whatever comes your way.  Scrambling to write a résumé when you have a job offer fall in your lap could reduce the efficacy of your application.  Start with a solid foundational résumé and leave room to take out or highlight different experiences and skills depending on the application.

Proofing: Get a fresh set of eyes and have a friend or mentor look it over- this is key!  It might be hard to accept feedback on this- but don’t take it personally.  This is all about presentation- an employer will probably spend a minute or less reading this over, it needs to ROCK and do so quickly@   You may be really proud of your volunteer experience with Habitat for Humanity, college G.P.A. or a special honor- but if it distracts or detracts from your tailored, marketable skills for your industry that employers are highly discriminate over- it might be best to take it off without getting offensive.

Be sure to choose the right proofreaders though- it might be tempting to have your best friend take a gander at it, but find someone who can offer you poignant, constructive criticism- because your potential employer won’t be kind

Additions: I recently graduated at the top of my class with a B.A. in Sociology and Women’s Studies.  Employers thought that was great, but could I format a document?  Did I know how to use Excel or Photoshop?  Do not underestimate the importance of simple skills around the office coupled with computer expertise or think that simply having a degree/job experience will be enough to make you competitive.   In my experience, I found that a lot of employers wanted computer skills most of us don’t get in college.  Look at your résumé and find holes in your skill sets- you can identify this by doing a job search online and gauging what potential employers in your field are looking for in addition to degrees or job experience.


Articles on Résumé Building:

10 Tips to a Kick Ass Resume @Bargaineering

10 Overused Resume Buzzwords to Avoid @LinkedIn Blog

How to Write a Resume @WiseBread


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August 2020