We Asked 3 Graduates Whether They Actually Used Their Degree Or If It Was As Useful As Algebra

Contributor: Jared Richards

We’ve all heard that Ps get degrees, but do degrees get jobs? Are qualifications really worth years of your time (not to mention thousands in HECS debt)?

With that in mind, we asked three young Australians each with their “dream job” whether they reckon their time studying got them where they wanted to go, based on LinkedIn’s new Career Pathways Report which suggests that employers would be smarter to hire based off at skills, rather than experience.

You can find the insights here, but they estimate that a skills-first hiring approach in Australia would increase the talent pool dramatically in most industries — and would see, across the board, there is a 32% increase in talent pools for women compared to men. It also really helps out younger workers too, who are being otherwise held back by a lack of ‘experience’, only making a difficult workforce to enter even harder to break into.

Gen Z – a generation that is starting their careers in a tough economic climate – will stand to benefit the most from skills-based hiring. LinkedIn’s insights show that the overall talent pool of Gen Z increases by 10.8x in Australia.

A skills-based approach to hiring also makes a huge difference amongst workers without bachelor’s degrees. When hiring for jobs that have seen steady growth, we see a Australia’s talent pool increase by 17% for this group, when compared to those who have a university education.

While university offers chances for growth outside the degree itself, the three people we chatted to said they had barely used the knowledge from their courses in their work. Take Nicole Joy, who studied a Bachelor of Secondary Education and now runs a program helping women start their own businesses. Nicole acknowledges her job involves teaching, but says that it’s self-study and on-the-job learning that’s gotten her to where she is, combined with some experience from TV acting and presenting, too.

This job is perfect for me as it combines all my own business and media experience together with my teaching skills – and it’s so much better to teach adults who *want* to be there as opposed to teenagers that don’t!” she says. “[My degree] was definitely not needed for what I’m doing now!”

Entrepreneur types like Nicole tend to say their degrees weren’t useful, but Alexandra Lamb says that her work as the Managing Director of her own consulting business does rely on credentials, even if her most valuable skills have come from experience. “Because my business is in coaching, it’s valuable that I have credentials in this space,” Alexandra says. “[But] I’m both self-taught and have developed through formal training – work and courses and uni, accelerator programmes as part of my entrepreneurial journey. Most of my skills I would say have been honed informally on the job, through talking with people in my network and trial and error.”

Alexandra goes on to say that although she sees on-the-job experiences as most valuable to her daily professional life now, she wouldn’t give back her uni experience, or recommend others skip it: “Going to uni or getting qualified through other courses is such a privilege, and you learn so much about yourself just through the process of applying yourself to something hard like a degree. So even if you don’t end up working in that field, or using those skills directly every day, you’re definitely benefitting from that time you invested in yourself as an adult to grow. Employers look for your ability to stick with hard things, and also the communication, collaboration, and discipline that comes from study.”

Abbie Williams, the founder of charity Letters of Hope, says she never planned to land where she did, originally studying a degree in English Language and Literature. “I struggled with severe anxiety and depression since my teens, and because I didn’t really know what was happening to me, I didn’t seek support,” she says. “

It wasn’t until I started having panic attacks at university which impacted my attendance that I reached out to the university counsellor. Not only did I manage to seek help for my own mental health and wellbeing, but as I learnt more about mental health I started to realise how passionate I was about wanting to help other people on the same position.”

Still, starting her own charity wasn’t on the agenda: it was only after working in wellbeing across corporate spaces that she felt the need to start her own service, offering mental health training, development and workshops for businesses. It was only through both lived experience and her job, not her degree, that Abbie was able to develop the skills to create Letters of Hope.

The job role I had involved a lot of training, speaking at conferences and the like,” she says. “And I ended up slowly being able to overcome that fear and develop my confidence to the point that I now thrive off of public speaking and absolutely love it. I never thought I would be able to say that.”

Those skills don’t necessarily appear on her CV at first glance, which is why LinkedIn’s encouraging employers and employees to reconsider how they look for workers and market themselves, respectively. You can find their report here, and once you’re done, maybe it’s time for a refresher of that resumé and LinkedIn page to make it more skills-based, huh?