I would say the most important thing when applying for jobs is neither degree nor experience, but the skills you have and the examples you can give to prove you have them. Both a degree and work experience can give you the opportunities to develop these skills. Of course some jobs do require you to have a degree, but a lot of jobs that say a degree is needed, would still consider you with graduates if you had sufficient work experience!
I think university is a great place because it makes you much more independent, and you gain skills without even realising it – budgeting (how to eat for a week on £10), problem solving (looking for your house off campus), confidence (knocking on random peoples doors in fresher’s week to introduce yourself), and so much more. At university you can join a million and one different societies that will give you a variety of opportunities to develop your skills, you can even put yourself forward to be part of a society’s committee or be the president. There is so much you can get involved in at university and it is a great experience.
In my degree, I had to do group and individual presentations. These required a great amount of research, teamwork, and confidence in public speaking. I can honestly say that if I hadn’t done my degree, I wouldn’t have as near as many skills as I do now.
As you can see from what I’ve written, it is hardly about the degree at all but the opportunities university gives to you as a whole. A degree is definitely no longer enough, with more people going to university than in our parents’ generation, the value of having a degree has decreased. Employers always want to know what else you did, what you did in your spare time, are you a hard worker.
My advice would be to break down what you really do in your degree, or what you really did in previous jobs. I guarantee you, you will realise you have skills you didn’t even know you had, and even better, you have evidence and examples of when you have shown these! I studied French and Spanish, which doesn’t reflect at all the job I am doing now at Enterprise! Look at the job profile, and ask yourself could you do the job and be good at it. Then look at the skills/qualities section and list examples of when you have shown you have these skills. Scan over the requirements section – if you match a decent amount of them but miss out on a few, then go for it! Motivation to learn and passion are invaluable and qualities that will show in an interview.
The most important thing is that you can demonstrate you have the skills for the job, these might be skills you have gained through previous work experience or it might be from your degree, it doesn’t matter.
Victoria Stone, Kent Graduate (French and Spanish) and Enterprise employee.