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Why Skills Matter as Much, or More, than a Degree


Group of professionals meeting together

From the day that we’re born, we’re raised to go to school, make friends, take part in activities and develop hobbies of our own. We progress through the stages of kindergarten to middle school, high school to post-secondary school, and for some of us, graduate school. Now, the real question is, why do we go through all of this schooling? The answer is simple. For most of us, it’s so that we can get a job. As humans, we have this idea that once we get our degree, we’ll get a job. But it takes some thought to realize that nothing is really set in stone; it’s not guaranteed that by simply getting a degree, we’ll get a job. In fact, there is a key idea that links us to the world of work, and that, is the skills that we develop throughout our life.

Even from the earliest stages, we learn and develop skills that are transferable later on as adults, such as communication, sympathy, empathy, and honesty. As we mature and enter middle school and high school, we are subject to more challenges, namely in school, as we began focusing time on school and assignments, along with clubs, volunteering - you name it. It’s at this stage that we start learning about our self-identity, developing emotional intelligence, and beginning to realize which subjects we excel at, and which ones aren’t our strong suit. It’s also a time when we develop teamwork and independent work skills.

Post-secondary school is where we truly began to see the usefulness of all these skills. Being a business student, I’ve been to several workshops hosted by the Telfer Career Centre and various employers, and I’ve seen how greatly the idea of skills development is stressed; it’s the part that we should emphasize on our CVs, our LinkedIn, and even during job interviews. During job interviews, whether they be for CO-OP or even a job we found through networking or on our own, we need to understand that there are many people in the same position as us. In other words, you could be one of the thousand fishes in the pond. This is because, all the fishes, including yourself, are likely either completing their degrees, or already have a degree. So I guess degrees can no longer be used as a differentiating factor (but don’t get me wrong, it’s still extremely useful to have a degree). What we can use, however, are our skills, and these will make us that big fish in the pond. Employers want to see that we can use these skills to excel in our jobs, and be an ideal employee.

That being said, although many of our skills are developed through our education, many of them are developed from outside school. For those of us who work part-time, we can develop a variety of skills, some of them being customer service, tolerance, attention to detail, and analytical skills, and all of these are applicable to our work lives. Even by going home to our families, our roommates, we can develop and enhance our adaptability, social, and time management skills.

At the end of the day, these skills, the ones we’ve developed throughout our lives, from personal matters to school, are what shape us into who we are, and help us excel in our careers. And remember, although “degrees” and “jobs” can be used in the same sentence, the linking word, is always the “skills”.